Should you wear a mask at Thanksgiving? Check this map

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — If you plan to travel to see family and friends for Thanksgiving, there are several factors to consider when it comes to protecting yourself and your loved ones, like the community transmission rate of where you’re traveling or if those you are gathering with are fully vaccinated.

Depending on what county you are in, Texas has drastically different transmission rates county by county — with the red areas representing counties with the highest level of COVID-19 transmission and blue being the lowest level.

Source: CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker
Source: CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker

For an interactive version of the map to see rates in each county, click here.

There are a few reasons for this, according to infectious disease experts like Dr. Jan Patterson of the University of Texas Health San Antonio.

“When we look at those areas of moderate transmission, as opposed to high transmission on that map, we have to remember that those areas were the very ones that were severely affected by the delta surge,” Patterson said. “I think those areas, because they had been in such high transmission, there is some herd immunity there. Whereas some of these other areas are experiencing what we did a couple of months ago.”

In comparison with about 70% of the United States where transmission is high, most of Texas appears to be safer in terms of its level of community spread.

Source: CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker
Source: CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker

“Our state is huge, right. And so it’s not always all on the same page like some others are,” said Dr. Jennifer Shuford, Texas DSHS chief epidemiologist. “…a lot of the other states around the United States are now having this big surge of delta. But our entire state doesn’t always have the same level of transmission going on.”

Both doctors asserted the best way to protect yourself and your family before the holidays is through vaccination. On Friday, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel expanded its recommendations for booster shots, now recommending the Moderna and Pfizer booster shots for all adults.

“After critical scientific evaluation, today’s unanimous decision carefully considered the current state of the pandemic, the latest vaccine effectiveness data over time, and review of safety data from people who have already received a COVID-19 primary vaccine series and booster. Booster shots have demonstrated the ability to safely increase people’s protection against infection and severe outcomes and are an important public health tool to strengthen our defenses against the virus as we enter the winter holidays. Based on the compelling evidence, all adults over 18 should now have equitable access to a COVID-19 booster dose.” 

CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H

“We know that six months out that immunity can wane and that you really need that booster,” Patterson said. “So it’s really a good idea, especially before the upcoming Christmas holidays, if you haven’t had your booster dose to go ahead and get that.”

Patterson and Shuford join a resounding chorus of infectious disease experts worried about another surge of COVID-19 cases after the holiday season.

“If you have vulnerable family members, hopefully they’re vaccinated. If there are unvaccinated people in the family, try to make it safe for those vulnerable family members. You know, having things outdoors is optimal,” Patterson said.

Patterson said for those families that are vaccinated, it is safe to have Thanksgiving activities as they “normally” would.

“By getting vaccines out and having people really take their holiday gathering seriously and make it a protected environment for those people that they love,” Shuford said.

Nationally, about 60% of Americans are fully vaccinated, compared to about 54% of all Texans.

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