This Fourth of July, many are doubly celebrating freedom, not just as a nation, but also from the pandemic.
However, one Virginia Tech expert said that while things are much better than they were a year ago, don’t forget to keep a few safety measures in place at those holiday gatherings.
“It’s important to think about who has been vaccinated and who hasn’t, recognizing that the coronavirus can still spread among people who haven’t been vaccinated,” said Laura Hungerford, professor and head of the Department of Population Health Sciences and Public Health Program at Virginia Tech. “If you have a group that has people who are vaccinated and people who are not, those who are not still remain at risk.”
She said the risk isn’t just for potentially catching COVID-19 themselves, but also for spreading it to someone else if they don’t realize they have it.
She recommended continuing social distancing if you aren’t sure of the vaccination status of others.
”If you could smell their garlicky breath or their overpowering perfume … that means you’re inhaling the same air they are breathing out and have the possibility of breathing in a virus,” said Hungerford.
There is one group of unvaccinated people she said you are going to need to put a little extra effort into planning for: kids.
“Those under 12 have not been approved to be vaccinated. So, while the good thing is we know that generally when kids get COVID-19, most of them don’t get as sick as, for example, older adults would, they might get it asymptomatically and then spread it to older people,” said Hungerford.
That’s why she said it is important to keep the kids at a safe distance from older adults who may be more vulnerable to infection.
“One thing I do is have lots of fun activities for kids that are outdoors and that have them being spread out rather than having them clustered in tightly,” Hungerford said.
She also recommended having an honest conversation with children about the situation, explaining to them that for now, they need to keep a safe distance from the vulnerable adults in their lives.
While many adults like to spare children those serious talks, she pointed out that children have been through this pandemic with us, and probably have a better understanding of what is going on than we think. So, perhaps even ask them to help you think of ways to remind them to social distance.
But also give them hope for the future.
“Hopefully before too long, we’ll have vaccines that are approved down to small children and we’ll be able to have people climbing on grandparents’ laps and all of those great things again,” said Hungerford.
For those concerned about the Delta variant as they make their Fourth of July plans, Hungerford offered a few words of encouragement.
“If you’re vaccinated, that is good protection against Delta,” Hungerford said. “If you look at the places where Delta’s had a big resurgence, or for any of the other [variants] before this, second or third waves, it’s among the people who are not vaccinated.”
So, for those who aren’t vaccinated, she said to keep employing the same methods you were taught the first time around of wearing masks and physical distancing.
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