Home COVID-19 tests and snug-fitting masks: How to make 2021 holiday gatherings safer

As the 2021 holiday season quickly approaches, families are discussing how they can safely gather in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At this point last year, Pfizer Inc. had and BioNTech just announced that their vaccine was 90% effective in preventing the disease, although vaccinations of healthcare professionals and other members of the first-priority group would not begin until December.

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Now, more than 194 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, and millions of children ages 5-11 were eligible to receive their shots last week.

The White House said Wednesday that about 900,000 children in that age group will have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in their first week of eligibility, and about 700,000 first-time appointments are planned in the coming days.

While cases in the United States are declining, Americans can still take steps to make their assemblies safe for all involved.

Home COVID-19 tests, for example, can provide a level of protection combined with vaccination.

A family video chat about Christmas

A family video chat about Christmas
(Credit: iStock)

While home kits are not as accurate as PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction).) tests at hospitals and test sites, they are able to give results within minutes.

Test kits are available at over-the-counter pharmacies, and a box of two tests typically sells for around $ 25.

Most tests require inoculation about half an inch inside both nostrils.

Adults and teens can test themselves, and an adult can test a child as young as 2 years old.

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If the test detects a viral protein in the sample, it will return a positive result.

However, some home tests will miss infections and – although rare – incorrectly indicate an infection.

A test misses about 15 out of 100 infections and gives a false positive result in about 1 in 100 people who are not infected with the virus.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that those who are and have not been vaccinated wear a well-fitting mask in a public indoor setting in communities with significant to high transmission and avoid poorly ventilated or overcrowded spaces.

Masks should not be applied to children under 2 years of age.

Those who are not yet eligible for vaccinations can be protected by having themselves and other eligible vaccinated.

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The agency has also published travel guides for both domestic and international travel.

Vaccination remains the best way to protect against COVID-19.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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