WASHINGTON, D.C. — For COVID-19’s second holiday go-around, there is cautious optimism.
“Now, there is a lot of people who have vaccine-induced immunity and a lot of people who have natural immunity, and that's making it harder for the virus to infect people,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja of Johns Hopkins University.
Right now, about 58% of people in the country are fully vaccinated; that is more than 190 million people. There have been 46 million cases of COVID in the U.S. since the pandemic began.
Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are starting to decline from the delta variant-induced highs of the past few months.
However, the weather is changing and, as it gets cooler, people will head indoors, giving COVID a chance to spread.
“We're still going to see cases,” Dr. Adalja said. “COVID is not going to be eliminated or eradicated, and there are going to be situations where transmission is more likely to occur - specifically unvaccinated individuals in indoor situations.”
For those who are vaccinated, experts say, the holiday season could start to look closer to normal.
“As long as there's not another variant that sort of mirrors delta, I would expect that the rates will remain low and that this holiday season could look very different than the last holiday season,” said Dr. Karl Minges with the University of New Haven.
He added that getting vaccinated is key to protecting yourself, including those eligible for getting booster shots and children 5 and up getting recently approved doses.
Yet, Dr. Minges said something else is important, too: asking questions before getting together for social gatherings.
“I think it's a fair question to ask your friends and family if you are vaccinated, if their kids have been able to be vaccinated at this point in time, because that will help you to have a more informed decision of your level of risk that you're willing to take,” Dr. Minges said.
It is a holiday season that might be less risky this year, but still not risk-free.