For the second year in a row, COVID-19 is an unwelcome presence during the winter holidays. But unlike last year, we know more about the virus and have more tools, such as widespread availability of vaccines and testing, to help prevent the spread of the disease.
Health officials say you don’t have to give up your holiday traditions this year, but you should prepare for the holidays with care and celebrate safely, especially in light of the current rise in cases in Loudoun and the region and the emergence of the Omicron variant. Loudoun County and many parts of the United States are currently experiencing a “winter surge” with high levels of COVID-19 transmission. Smaller, local gatherings are safer than larger gatherings that involve long distance-travel.
“As multiple generations of families prepare to get together for the holidays, vaccination against COVID-19 for everyone five and older is the best way to minimize COVID-19 risk and keep your family safe,” said Loudoun County Health Director Dr. David Goodfriend. “For optimal protection, anyone 16 and older who is eligible for a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine should get one. Also, you should consider getting tested if you are planning to travel.”
COVID-19 vaccination appointments are available at Loudoun County’s vaccination clinic at Dulles Town Center. Appointments can be made online for a free COVID-19 vaccination for anyone who is eligible for a vaccine. This includes anyone 5 years of age and older who has not yet completed the initial vaccine series as well as those individuals who are eligible for a third dose or booster dose. Loudoun County is currently offering all three types of vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson). Children 17 and younger must receive Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
Other vaccination opportunities from providers such as pediatricians’ offices and pharmacies are also available. In addition to the COVID-19 vaccine, these providers also offer flu vaccine. You can find vaccination appointments from these providers at vaccines.gov.
Health officials recommend that anyone who is traveling for the holidays get tested ahead of time. “I encourage people who will be traveling and gathering with family and friends for the holidays to get tested before visiting with others outside their household, regardless of their vaccination status,” said Dr. Goodfriend. “If you find out you are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 before you celebrate, you can choose to stay home so that you don’t spread the virus to others.”
When getting tested before traveling, you should take the test close to the date when you are traveling or planning to gather with others, but far enough ahead to get results.
Where to Get Tested
- Many pharmacies and health care providers offer COVID-19 tests in Loudoun County. To find a provider near you, visit the Virginia Department of Health’s website.
- Loudoun County provides free COVID-19 testing weekly, on Tuesdays, at various locations. For testing schedules and event details, visit loudoun.gov/covid19testing.
More information about COVID-19 testing is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Other Preventive Steps
In addition to the approaching holidays, cold weather will lead to more people spending more time together indoors. Follow these precautions to stay safe not only from COVID-19, but also the flu, which is now widespread throughout Virginia:
- Wear a mask indoors when around people who do not live with you.
- Wear a mask in public indoor settings if you are not fully vaccinated, have a weakened immune system or are in an area of high transmission.
- Stay 6 feet away from people outside your household.
- Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces.
- If you are sick, stay home.
- Get a flu vaccine.
- Wash your hands with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer if soap and water is not available. This will help prevent many diseases, including the seasonal flu.
For additional information about COVID-19 and to sign up for COVID-19 text and email updates from Loudoun County, visit loudoun.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with questions about COVID-19 vaccine may call the Health Department's information line at 703-737-8300 or send an email to the Health Department.
# # #