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Health experts preach COVID-19 precautions ahead of end-of-year winter holidays

Justin Hicks/IPB News

Epidemiologists are preaching caution ahead of end-of-year winter holidays. This comes as the state reports high COVID-19 transmission, overwhelmed hospitals and its first case of omicron

Dr. Scott Stienecker, an epidemiologist with the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, said the key to safe holiday gatherings is two-fold: getting vaccinated and tested.

He said he’s putting that into practice ahead of visiting his own parents for Christmas. Stienecker purchased at-home tests for before traveling and after arriving for his visit.

“I really would caution everybody to make sure that they do that frequent testing if they’re going to be in a situation where they could expose loved ones,” Stienecker said.

Because that exposure could have serious consequences: Indiana has reported 285 deaths in just the last week.

“And even though you – having been vaccinated and even boostered, may not get particularly sick, may have minimal or even no symptoms – as you visit those immunocompromised or elderly relatives, you’re potentially putting their lives in danger,” he said.

But if you do gather, he has a handful of suggestions to mitigate the risks for people who are at higher risk: 

  • Make sure everyone is vaccinated
  • Split up seating for meals
  • Don’t have buffet-style lines for food
  • Open a window or door to regulate air flow, and seat immunocompromised or older folks nearby

Stienecker also said it’s better to have multiple small gatherings rather than one large one. Based on data from the Regenstrief Institute and state, the number of new positive cases and the positivity rate of new tests, an estimated 1 in 10 Hoosiers has active COVID-19 infections.

Contact Lauren at or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.