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How to get holiday ready while minding pandemic risks


While keeping in mind the need for the country to better prepare for the next pandemic, we also want to note that the fall is here. And for many of us, this is the time of year when a different and hopefully happier set of preparations has to take place - yep, planning for the holidays and, once again, thinking about how to stay safe from COVID. Now, it just so happens that another piece in The Atlantic this week offers readers tips on how to get their holiday plans in order during this stage of the pandemic. So we invited Atlantic editor Caroline Mimbs Nyce to share some of those tips with us. She wrote that piece, and she's with us now.

Welcome. Thank you for joining us.

CAROLINE MIMBS NYCE: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.

MARTIN: I do want to point out that for some, important holidays have already started. Like, the Jewish High Holidays were last month. So thankfully, you spoke to some public health experts to come up with these tips. If there's one takeaway from your piece, I would say that it's never too early to start planning and talking to family and friends about the holidays. Why is that important in the context of the pandemic?

MIMBS NYCE: So I think that the main thing is right now, you have time to talk to your family and really think about what your priorities are as a group. You know, obviously, vaccination is not something that happens overnight. And one of the things that I learned while reporting this story is that there's actually enough time right now going into the fall holidays, if you do have someone that is vaccine hesitant in your family, they could go out right now and get the shot and still reach full immunity by the time, you know, the Thanksgiving turkey is on the table.

MARTIN: So let's say you started to plan. The next step would be to assess the risk for yourself and your family. How do the experts suggest people do that?

MIMBS NYCE: Yeah. So one expert I talked to offered a really helpful, sort of three-step framework. The first is try to get everyone in your group who can be vaccinated, vaccinated. Secondly, then you want to go in and do sort of an assessment of who in your group might be high risk. And then third, you want to think about, based on how many high-risk attendees you might have, sort of maybe layering on extra layers of protection. That can be stuff like testing or moving the gathering outside. There's lots of options. We have lots of stuff in our sort of pandemic toolkit.

At this point, we don't know at case levels will look like. Gatherings are more high risk if there are higher rates of COVID in your area, so a lot of this will also require paying attention, tuning into the radio, reading the news, just keeping an eye on what's happening because we can't really predict what COVID will look like come November and December. There's movement on boosters. There's movement on a potential kid vaccine for those under 5. We don't know what variants could develop between now and then.

MARTIN: I'm going to ask - you know I'm going to put you on the spot. What plans are you making for the fall?

MIMBS NYCE: (Laughter) So actually - yeah, last year, I spent it with just my partner and my dog. But this year, I'm hosting a very small gathering. I plan to have my nieces there and plan to have all vaccinated adults. So, yeah, I'm excited. I'm already planning my menu.

MARTIN: OK. That sounds good - something to look forward to.


MARTIN: That was Caroline Mimbs Nyce. She's an editor at The Atlantic, and she recently wrote about how to plan for a safe pandemic holiday season this year. Caroline Mimbs Nyce, thanks so much for talking with us.

MIMBS NYCE: Thank you. Have a good one. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.