Jean Murray, Luminis Health director of infection prevention and control

Jean Murray RN MSN CIC, system director of infection prevention and control at Luminis Health

The Bay Times spoke with Jean Murray, the director of infection prevention and epidemiology at Luminis Health, about how to navigate COVID-19 this holiday season.

Parker: How are you feeling this holiday season compared to last holiday season?

Murray: Far more optimistic. And the reason for that is that one, we have the vaccine, and two, we have additional treatment protocols that we hadn’t had last year. I think that opens us up to feel a little safer in our communities and with our families.

Parker: What are your recommendations for people who want to travel?

Murray: In this new age, I think it’s important to understand the transmission rates from the community that you’re traveling from, as well as the community you’re traveling to. Also it’s important to know what the guidelines are based on either the state or the county that you are going to be visiting, because that may impact how you travel, what you can do, things along those lines. I think first and foremost, that’s a good start.

From there, obviously, you want to take some precautions when you travel. The CDC is still recommending that you mask, and if you can, get vaccinated prior to your trip by planning accordingly. Masking is to protect yourself and others during your transit and then, when you arrive, you want to make sure and reach out to your family or whoever you’re visiting to understand the circumstances of how the visit will be: asking what precautions they might be taking, whether anybody in the house has been sick recently. And certainly, you don’t want to travel if you had an exposure or if you’re currently ill.

Some families are getting tested prior to their visitation as reassurance and ultimately, the goal is to protect those that are most vulnerable – those that are either unvaccinated or those that may have co-morbidities that put them more at risk of hospitalization from COVID and other respiratory viruses as we enter the winter months.

Parker: What do you recommend for families whose kids have not yet been able to receive the vaccine?

Murray: I think in general, it’s a personal choice with regards to gathering for the holidays. And that is something that I think the family as a whole needs to discuss: what precautions they may take in order to allow grandchildren to visit with an elderly parent or someone that’s at risk.

There are so many factors that go into it, like vaccination status. If the child is eligible to get vaccinated, that is certainly something to consider and discuss with their pediatrician. But there are safety and mitigation efforts in place to make that visit the safest you can.

Parker: Are there any other kind of precautions or recommendations you want to make for people going into the holiday season?

Murray: I recommend that people check out the CDC webpage. They have some general guidance with regards to making the holidays safer. The CDC does recommend, if you have a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated family, that there may be times that you want to take precautions, like wearing a mask, good hand hygiene, maybe not gathering all at the same table, but maybe spreading out a little bit just to provide a little extra protection. They recommend opening your windows to allow fresh air to come into the room.

Those are some steps you can take to mitigate any risk, or at least lower it.

To learn more about visit the CDC’s website and search for “holiday tips.”

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