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(WHNT) — As Alabamians get ready to gather with family and friends for the upcoming holiday season, health officials are offering tips to minimize the risk of catching COVID-19.

In his November message, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said the best way to protect yourself and those around you is getting vaccinated against the virus.

“Despite the sharp rise in post-holiday infections last year, social distancing, mask wearing, and other mitigation measures taken over the holiday season likely prevented countless COVID-19 cases and saved lives,” Harris stated. “Your efforts can help prevent needless suffering and loss of life.”

Harris stated that for families with vulnerable seniors or family members with chronic health conditions, virtual or outdoor gatherings “may be advisable again this year.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers these tips for staying safe during the holiday season:

  • Protect yourself and those around you by taking a COVID-19 vaccine
  • Wear masks that cover your nose and mouth during public indoor settings if you are not fully vaccinated (except for children under the age of 2)
    • Even those that have been vaccinated should wear masks indoors in areas with a high rate of community transmission
  • Outdoor gatherings are safer than indoor gatherings
  • If you are sick or have symptoms of COVID-19, don’t host or attend a gathering and get tested

“Effective safety measures should allow everyone to enjoy the holiday festivities while minimizing the risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 and its severe outcomes to others,” Harris concluded. “No single solution exists for all, and all risks cannot be eliminated.”

For the latest COVID-19 numbers in Alabama, visit the Alabama Department of Public Health’s website.