How to try to avoid catching COVID over the holidays

Surge in coronavirus, flu and RSV expected this winter

By: - November 18, 2022 4:30 am

“Airports and airplanes are a place where people are coming from all over, and there’s a much higher risk of contracting a virus being in a closed space for a long period of time, independent of that air filtration system in the airport or on the plane,” said New Mexico Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase. (Photo by Austin Fisher / Source NM)

Individual behavior is not a guarantee of avoiding infection with COVID.

But there are steps that you can take to mitigate the risk of catching it if and when you visit your relatives over the upcoming holiday season.

Dr. Anna Duran, associate chief medical officer at UNM Hospital, says she is anticipating a surge in Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) “because people want to see one another.”

“Let’s keep sick at home, and keep well, so we can continue to visit our family,” Duran said during a news conference on Thursday afternoon.

The same can be said for other respiratory illnesses including influenza and COVID, which spread through the air.

The modeling team at Los Alamos National Laboratory is projecting an eight-week-long surge in COVID cases, which will result in more hospitalizations and deaths, said New Mexico Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase.

Do not go to Thanksgiving dinner if you are sick, Scrase said.

“Stay in your bedroom and have them bring you a plate, and maybe watch football in your room or something, and have them bring you a TV, but don’t mingle with the rest of your family over the holidays if you’re sick,” Scrase said.

If you have older family members, they are the ones who will get sickest from influenza, COVID and RSV, said Dr. Laura Parajón, deputy health secretary.

“So taking care of our oldest people, if you are thinking of visiting, maybe consider taking a rapid (COVID) test that day, before you go to visit your family members,” Parajón said. “Of course, stay home when you’re sick, and please get vaccinated if you haven’t been vaccinated yet.”

Regardless of your age, even a “mild” COVID infection can result in a chronic illness known as Long COVID.

Thanksgiving weekend is the busiest airplane travel time of the year, Scrase said, and he recommends wearing an N95 mask on a plane. You should also wear it in the airport, he said.

“Airports and airplanes are a place where people are coming from all over, and there’s a much higher risk of contracting a virus being in a closed space for a long period of time, independent of that air filtration system in the airport or on the plane,” Scrase said.

You should probably be wearing an N95 mask in any crowded place.

If you are hosting a gathering over the holidays, you should also be doing something to clean the air that you and your loved ones will be sharing.

In New Mexico it will probably be too cold to open the windows to let fresh air in, however, you can still clean the air by either buying an air filtration system or building your own, which can be done for less than $100.

Some communities in New Mexico have been doing this for years.

Be sure that the filter on the system is rated MERV-13 or higher, which is the rating needed to filter out COVID and other viruses in the air.

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Austin Fisher
Austin Fisher

Austin Fisher is a journalist based in Santa Fe. He has worked for newspapers in New Mexico and his home state of Kansas, including the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Garden City Telegram, the Rio Grande SUN and the Santa Fe Reporter. Since starting a full-time career in reporting in 2015, he’s aimed to use journalism to lift up voices that typically go unheard in public debates around economic inequality, policing and environmental racism.

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