The holidays are here and the San Miguel County Public Health Department reminds residents and visitors to use precautionary measures to protect themselves and loved ones against COVID-19 while gathering. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), one in 49 Coloradans is estimated to be infected with COVID-19, as the state faces a severe wave of infections expected to rival last winter’s peak case rates, according to a county news release Thursday.

“The holiday season is an important time to gather, spend time with loved ones and reunite after many months apart,” county public health director Grace Franklin said. “Those who cannot be vaccinated are best protected by surrounding themselves with family and friends that are fully vaccinated. Getting vaccinated, testing in advance of gathering and using our familiar tools are the best methods to protect our loved ones while getting together over the holidays.”

In Colorado, 80 percent of those presently hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. The COVID vaccines have made recipients 10 times less likely to be hospitalized and 13.4 times less likely to die from COVID. During the holiday season, it is best to pair the protection of a COVID vaccine with other basic safety protocols, especially to protect those who are unvaccinated:

  • Get vaccinated. Everybody 5-years-old and up should get a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Get a booster. All Coloradans 18 or older are eligible if it has been at least six months since receiving the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, or at least two months since receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
  • Pod up. Consider significantly reducing the number of close interactions with people not within one’s pod in the weeks leading up to gathering with family and friends.
  • Communicate COVID-19 ground rules and the precautionary measures to be taken in advance of welcoming guests to a gathering.
  • Get tested. Take advantage of free testing across the county or at-home test kits such as the Abbott BinaxNOW rapid at-home antigen test.
  • Opt out. If sick or symptomatic, do not gather with others. An at-risk family member or friend could be infected.
  • During a gathering, consider taking additional precautionary measures, especially if any attendees are unvaccinated.
  • Outdoor gatherings are safer than those indoors. If the weather allows, consider having an outdoor celebration or opening doors and windows to improve ventilation indoors.
  • Wash hands before cooking, serving, or eating.
  • If people who aren’t vaccinated are in attendance or if seeking extra protection, wear a mask and stay distanced.

If choosing to travel or gather with larger groups over the holidays, there are a few things to do upon return to protect roommates, neighbors and the community:

  • Get tested. Remember, the best time to test is five to seven days after the last potential exposure or at symptom onset.
  • Limit interactions. Consider reducing in-person contact with others after traveling or attending a gathering until a negative COVID test result is received after at least five days.
  • Monitor for symptoms. For the next 14 days after the last potential exposure, it’s important to pay special attention to potential symptoms.

To be considered fully vaccinated by the following holidays, people should get their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the following dates:

Christmas (Dec. 25): Moderna by Nov. 13, Pfizer by Nov. 20, Johnson & Johnson by Dec. 11.

New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31): Moderna by Nov. 19, Pfizer by Nov. 26, Johsnon & Johnson by Dec. 17

Public health has confirmed 48 new positive cases of COVID-19 from test results received from Nov. 12-18. Of these cases, one is a nonresident, 39 are confirmed as east end residents, six are confirmed as west end residents and two have an unknown residency. As of Thursday, there were 40 active local cases, and all actively contagious cases are currently in isolation. There have been 1,277 total COVID cases among residents, including 172 total breakthrough cases, one current hospitalization and five COVID-related deaths. To learn more about the county’s current COVID-19 metrics, visit the county COVID-19 dashboard at covid-19-sanmiguelco.hub.arcgis.com.