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Planning to gather for the holidays? Consider this Utah public health guidance amid COVID-19

There is a mechanism for gathering safely this year, “and that’s vaccination,” an official said.

Jessica and John Franz pray before Thanksgiving dinner with their daughters, Quinn, 2, left; Amelia, 11; and Molly, 8, back, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Olathe, Kan. The family was having a quiet scaled-back Thanksgiving with just their household due to concerns about the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Holiday gatherings where every family member is fully vaccinated don’t pose much of a health risk, Salt Lake County Health Department spokesperson Nicholas Rupp said.

“We can be so grateful that there is a mechanism for gathering safely this year, and that’s vaccination,” Rupp said. “It’s such a great thing that we can have large groups again.”

But if you have a child younger than 4 years old — who is not eligible for vaccination — or a relative who is immunocompromised, “you may not want to incur those risks,” Rupp said. About 55% of Utahns are vaccinated, according to state health data. Intensive care units across the state remain near capacity.

Anyone who plans to gather with unvaccinated friends or family should take precautions to help mitigate risk, Rupp said. Open windows for better air circulation, he advised — the weather in Salt Lake City should be relatively mild Thanksgiving.

Rupp also recommended wearing masks when not eating and sitting farther apart than normal.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that people get vaccinated before travel, although it is not required. People who plan to use public transportation, or fly, are required to wear masks.

When possible, it is safer to gather outdoors than indoors, according to the CDC. The agency recommends avoiding crowded, poorly ventilated areas. People who are sick or have symptoms of COVID-19 should not host or attend such gatherings.

For Black Friday shoppers, or for anyone shopping: “You should wear a mask,” Rupp said, “regardless of your vaccination status.”

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been around someone who tested positive, free testing sites are available around the state. Visit coronavirus.utah.gov/mobile-testing-locations/ to find a location.

COVID-19 vaccines are free and available to anyone 5 years of age or older, and all Utahns are eligible to receive a booster vaccine if they had previously been vaccinated. Visit coronavirus.utah.gov/vaccine-distribution/ to find a location.

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