With the holidays fast approaching, Cowlitz County Health & Human Services is encouraging residents to take steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19 while celebrating with friends and family.
“Cowlitz County’s two week COVID-19 case rate is about 3X higher than it was this time last year, which means it is important to continue taking steps to keep ourselves and our loved ones healthy,” said Dr. Steven Krager, deputy health officer for Cowlitz County.
“There are many ways we can more safely enjoy our favorite traditions,” he said. “Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 if you’re age 5 years or older is a great start.”
Get Vaccinated If You’re Age 5+
The best thing you can do to reduce your risk of catching or spreading COVID-19 is get vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccine is available to people ages 5 years and older and is highly effective at preventing severe illness that can lead to hospitalization and death.
Did you know? A recent report by Cowlitz County Health & Human Services showed that after the Delta variant became dominant, COVID-19 case rates were 3-4X lower among fully vaccinated Cowlitz County residents, and COVID-19 hospitalization rates were 7-13X lower among fully vaccinated SW Washington residents, compared to those who were not vaccinated.
You are considered fully vaccinated 14 days after your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or 14 days after receiving the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. If you are fully vaccinated, visit our website to see if a booster or additional dose is recommended for you.
People with weakened immune systems may not be fully protected, even if they are fully vaccinated and have received an additional dose. They should continue taking precautions, such as wearing a well-fitted mask, as recommended by their health care provider.
Don’t forget! It is not too late to get your flu vaccine. It is recommended for everyone ages 6 months and older and is available at local pharmacies, clinics, and health care provider offices. You can get your COVID-19 and flu vaccines at the same time.
To find a COVID-19 or flu vaccine location near you, search: https://bit.ly/3wAkvs8.
Consider Safer Holiday Activities
In addition to getting vaccinated, the Washington State Department of Health and CDC recommend the following tips for safer celebrations:
• Wear a cloth face covering or mask that fits snugly and covers your mouth and nose. When you are indoors, or in a crowded outdoor space, it is safer to wear a mask, especially if you are not vaccinated.
• Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces. Outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities. If you decide to gather indoors, open windows and doors to ensure proper ventilation.
• Watch your distance and limit close contact with people outside your household. Where possible stay six feet apart and keep closer contact brief, especially among people at high risk for severe COVID-19 or are not fully vaccinated.
If you are gathering with a group of people from multiple households, and potentially from different parts of the country, consider additional precautions – such as avoiding crowded indoor spaces before traveling, or taking a test in advance of gathering.
You may also choose to wear a mask if someone in your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe COVID-19, or is unvaccinated.
Depending on your risk level, you may decide it is safer to celebrate the holidays virtually or at home with the people you live with. If you find yourself apart from friends or family this year, consider these activities to stay connected:
→ Get together online. Set aside time to gather online to cook, open gifts, do a craft project, read stories – you name it!
→ Secret gift exchange. Randomly assign a name to each person in a group to mail a purchased or handmade gift. Open the gifts online together.
→ Learn a recipe. Pick out your favorite family recipe and learn to make it with friends or family by phone or online.
For more ideas for safer gatherings, visit: https://bit.ly/3EMqi0v.
Take Precautions If You’re Traveling
There are several recommendations and requirements in place to protect travelers’ health. Right now, the CDC recommends that everyone delay travel until they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
• If you are not fully vaccinated and must travel, follow CDC’s domestic travel or international travel recommendations for unvaccinated people.
• If you will be traveling in a group or family with unvaccinated people, choose safer travel options.
• Everyone, even people who are fully vaccinated, is required to wear a mask on public transportation and follow international travel recommendations.
Learn more about travel recommendations and requirements: https://bit.ly/3q97rbZ.
Stay Home & Get Tested If You’re Sick
If you are sick or have COVID-19 symptoms, you should not host or attend a gathering. Anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms, or who has been exposed, should get tested – regardless of vaccination status or prior infection.
If you are sick, or are waiting for your test result:
• Stay home, except to get medical care. Wear a mask. Stay six feet apart from others. Wash your hands often. Cover your coughs and sneezes. Regularly clean high-touch surfaces.
• Stay separate from other people and pets in your home. If you need to be around others in your household, wear a mask.
• Monitor your symptoms. Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
Read more about what to do if you are sick here: https://bit.ly/3k7T83G.
Take Care Of Your Mental Health
It is normal to experience ups and downs during the holiday season, especially during a pandemic. If you’re in need of support, try these resources:
→ Washington Listens support line. For people experiencing stress due to COVID-19. Call: 1-833-681-0211. Hours: Mon-Fri 9am-9pm, Sat-Sun 9am-6pm.
→ WA Warm Line. For people living with emotional and mental health challenges. Call: 1-877-500-9276. Hours: Mon-Sun 12:30-9pm.
→ Teen Link. For youth with concerns about bullying, drugs, alcohol, relationships, stress, depression, or other issues. Call or text: 1-866-833-6546. Hours: Mon-Sun 6-10pm (by phone) and 6-9:30pm (by text).
To find more mental and emotional support resources, visit: https://bit.ly/3okwxCj.