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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued holiday-specific guidelines this week to limit COVID-19 risks posed by gatherings and celebrations prior to the fall and winter holidays.

Why it matters: With the flu season just around the corner, medical experts are worried about the likelihood of battling COVID-19 and influenza at the same time. The coronavirus has now killed 200,000 Americans, and the U.S. is averaging roughly 830 per day. Cases and deaths could worsen again as the weather gets colder and people move indoors.

The CDC published safe celebration alternatives.

General considerations:

  • Virtual gatherings or those that include one’s immediate household are among the lowest risk.
  • Outdoor activities are preferable to those held inside, the agency noted. If an event cannot take place outside, people should increase ventilation by opening windows and doors.
  • Gatherings with people who travel pose a heightened risk as opposed to those with attendees who live in the same area.
  • Guests should stay updated on COVID-19 safety guidelines and take steps to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • There should be extra masks, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and tissues available at gatherings.
  • Alcohol and drug use can impair judgement and increase risky behavior.

Lower-risk Halloween activities:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance.
  • Instead of traditional trick-or-treating, an outdoor Halloween scavenger hunt where children can admire decorations at a distance.
  • Virtual Halloween activities, such as costume contests or movie nights.
  • "One-way trick-or-treating" where individually wrapped bags are presented at a safe distance.
  • A costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that cover the nose and mouth and don't leave gaps around the face.

Lower-risk Thanksgiving and winter holiday activities:

  • Prepare traditional family recipes and deliver in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others.
  • Gift shopping online rather than in-person.
  • Visit pumpkin patches or orchards while wearing masks and where visitors use hand sanitizer.

Go deeper

Dec 31, 2020 - Health

U.S. set to end 2020 with just over 3 million vaccine doses administered

A healthcare worker hands Patrick Range, Sr., 88, a vaccination card after giving him the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami on Dec. 30. Photo: Marco Bello/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Americans received just over 3 million initial doses of coronavirus vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech in the 19 days following first shipments, according to a Bloomberg tally of government websites and CDC data.

Why it matters: It's far below Operation Warp Speed's goal of administering 20 million doses by the end of the year, raising concerns about how long it may be until enough people are vaccinated in the U.S. for life to return to normal.

Dec 31, 2020 - Health

WHO lists Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

A healthcare worker giving a patient a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine in Florida on Dec. 30. Photo: Marco Bello/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Thursday listed Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.

Why it matters: The approval — the WHO's first for a coronavirus vaccine — may allow some countries to expedite their own regulatory approval processes so they can import and administer the vaccine quicker, the WHO said.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker