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Health

Fully vaccinated families can safely gather for the holidays, local health official says

thanksgiving
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Local health officials say fully vaccinated families can safely gather for the holidays this year. Though the level of COVID-19 transmission in the area is still very high, it is much lower than this time last year.

Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman says every family should consider the risks when making holiday plans.

"Many families are fully vaccinated, and I think it is safe to come together and enjoy a holiday together," he says. "If you have a family member that has compromised health, you might want to think twice about those plans and be extra extra careful."

About 59% of county residents of all ages are fully vaccinated against COVID. Meanwhile, new cases in Hamilton County have plateaued, but without the decline in cases health officials hoped for. The county is still at the highest possible level of virus transmission according to the CDC, with 149 new cases per 100,000 people.

"Our goal is to get us below 50 so that we can maybe be back in a little bit more normalcy where recommendations go away from masking in our public locations," Kesterman says.

That masking, however, may help with the transmission of another virus: influenza.

"We know that masks had an impact on last year's flu season; we saw almost no flu hospitalizations here in Hamilton County," Kesterman says. "A few hospitalizations, but nothing like what we would have seen a few years ago."

Kesterman says it's safe to get a flu shot and a COVID vaccine or booster at the same time. And the strategy for limiting the flu is the same as for COVID: wash your hands often and wear a mask in public, and most importantly, stay at home if you're sick.