Families have been having these discussions for years now. Each year, there have been different nuances, based on where we stood with the pandemic. What does it mean to “be sick”? If you have a headache and sniffles does that mean you should stay home? Some things to consider:

Talk to your family about your boundaries.

Talk to your family beforehand so everyone is on the same page and comfortable. One approach you could take is going by childcare and school rules: Have you had a fever or vomiting in the last 24 hours? If the answer is ‘yes’, don’t go.

There are special considerations for every family. Do you have any older adults, people who are immunocompromised (e.g., in treatment for cancer), or newborns in the family? In that case, you might consider setting stricter limits, like say, “Everyone rapid tests and do not come if you have any cold, flu, or COVID symptoms.” We like this Emily Oster article on some things you may consider, given your circumstances.

It’s a good time to revisit the latest exposure guidance, especially if you know you’ve been around someone with COVID.

If you were exposed to someone with COVID:

  • Get tested at least 5 days after you last had close contact with someone with COVID, even if you don’t have symptoms.
  • Wear a high-quality mask for 10 days.
  • Monitor yourself for symptoms for 10 days.

Remember: a person with COVID is infectious two days before they have symptoms (or two days before their positive test if they didn’t have symptoms) through the end of their isolation period.

Get your COVID bivalent booster and flu shot, use rapid tests, and cover coughs and sneezes.

The good news is that we have tools to help us celebrate holidays with family safely:

  • Everyone 6 months and older is eligible for COVID vaccine in Wisconsin. Most people ages five and older are also eligible for the updated bivalent booster, which provides protection from the original strain of COVID, as well as the Omicron strain. You can get your booster at one of our clinics, at a pharmacy, or at your doctor’s office.
  • Flu vaccines are also available. This year we’re seeing a lot more flu activity throughout the country. Getting a flu shot this season helps protect you, your family and your community. It’s especially important to help protect yourself from getting more than one virus at once. Dane County is off to a great start this season, leading the state with 36% vaccinated for flu, compared to 23% statewide!
  • Order a free pack of COVID tests. There are many ways to get free rapid tests. You can order a package of five rapid antigen COVID tests for your household, every month. Place your order at the Say Yes! COVID Test website. You can also buy at-home tests in stores, pharmacies, and online. Insurance companies, Medicaid, and Medicare are required to reimburse up to eight tests per month, per member.
  • Don’t forget about the basics. Wash your hands often, cover your coughs and sneezes, and don’t double dip in the salsa! In other words, don’t be gross! These simple steps lower the ability of all viruses to spread.

The bottom line

Any time you see family and extended family for any kind of get together, there’s always a risk someone could get sick, especially during respiratory virus season. There are ways to help reduce that risk, including having a conversation with your family and setting some ground rules.

This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Public Health Madison & Dane County and a link back to the original post.