Plan ahead to celebrate holidays safely: Doctors recommend getting tested for COVID-19 before gathering

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- There's far less fear surrounding Christmas this year thanks to vaccines, which weren't as widespread at this time last year.

That doesn't mean doctors don't want people to be cautious.

"If you're vaccinated and boosted, holiday celebrations for the most part pose really low risk," UW Health Chief Quality Officer Dr. Jeff Pothof said.

For unvaccinated people, that's not the case. If someone gets vaccinated or boosted now, they won't be fully protected by Christmas Day, but Pothof said some protection is better than none.

"The best day to get your booster shot, if you haven't gotten it, is today, as soon as possible," Pothof said.

The next best thing to do is to get swabbed for COVID-19 before celebrating with people.

"Any test that you take before attending a holiday gathering is the best test," City of Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson said. 

The city of Milwaukee has three free community testing sites. You can find the locations and hours here.


There's also a number of pharmacies and clinics that offer testing. At-home tests are flying off the shelves. Doctors say if those are done correctly, they're just as reliable as tests done at health systems.

"You can't be shy to really swab that nasal cavity," Pothof said.

With COVID-19 cases multiplying quickly, and the omicron variant spreading in the community, there's concern for what's to come in the new year.

"I think we are going to see an increased number of cases, and we're certainly going to see an increased number of cases from people gathering for the holidays," Johnson said.

Doctors still recommend wearing masks around others, especially if the vaccination status is unknown.

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