COVID Safety Tips for Lunar New Year
By Dr. Erica Pan, California State Epidemiologist
As many Californians prepare to celebrate Lunar New Year and the upcoming Year of the Tiger, it is important to keep COVID-19 safety in mind.
According to Chinese zodiac traditions, people born in the Year of the Tiger are “vigorous and ambitious, daring and courageous, enthusiastic and generous, self-confident with a sense of justice and a commitment to help others for the greater good.”
When it comes to preventing COVID, Californians should emulate the Tiger’s commitment to helping others for the greater good, namely by masking up, getting vaccinated and getting boosted.
Even though Lunar New Year is just around the corner, it remains vitally important to get vaccinated and boosted to protect you and those around you. Vaccines and boosters prevent you from becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 and its variants, needing hospitalization, a ventilator, or even dying.
Boosters work quickly and are authorized and recommended for all persons 12 and older.Individuals 12+ who received the Pfizer vaccine and individuals 18+ who received the Moderna vaccine are eligible for a booster five months after their initial full series was completed. Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients are encouraged to get boosted two months after their first vaccination.
Visit MyTurn.ca.gov or call 833-422-4255 to find a vaccine or a booster near you.
I know that many of us have been looking forward to big celebrations for Lunar New Year and the Year of the Tiger. With the Omicron variant circulating throughout California and as cases are still at record highs, people should look for ways to celebrate that don’t spread COVID-19.
Keep gatherings small and outdoors if possible. If you have family members with underlying health conditions, it may be wise to postpone your gathering or celebrate virtually. If you do choose to gather, test everyone right before or within one day or so of the event as noted below, and if you can’t keep it outdoors, keep as many windows and doors open as possible to improve ventilation.
If you live in a community that holds popular Lunar New Year events, such as large parades or festivals, use caution. In crowded outdoor settings where social distancing is not possible, be sure to wear a well-fitting mask that covers your mouth and nose, preferably a higher-filtration mask such as a KN95, KFN94, or N95 mask, or a surgical mask with a nose wire. Unvaccinated young children who cannot wear a mask should avoid large gatherings. Check out our website for tips on getting the most out of your mask.
If you will travel or gather in a large group, it is a good idea to get tested so that you “know before you go.” Get tested the day of or one day before a family gathering, or prior to any travel, even if you have no symptoms. Rapid antigen testing should be done within 24 hours prior to a gathering or travel. PCR testing should be done within 72 hours – with results available prior to a gathering or travel. You should also test when you return, and test again 3-5 days later. You can check the CDC and CDPH website for the latest information and guidance on travel. There are no out-of-pocket costs to get tested. Visit a state or local testing site, pharmacy, or call (833) 422-4255. Every home in the U.S. is also eligible to order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests from covidtests.gov.
Another thing you can do to protect yourself and your friends and family is Activate CA Notify on your smartphone and ask others to do the same. CA Notify anonymously notifies individuals of a possible exposure anywhere they have been with their smartphone. It is a free service that allows you to find out if you were exposed to COVID-19. You can also notify others if you test positive, while remaining anonymous. Visit canotify.ca.gov for activation information.
Whether you celebrate the Lunar New Year in person or virtually, I wish you good health and good fortune as you take part in these special traditions safely. Remember to live the next year in the way of the Tiger and “help others for the greater good.”
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Dr. Pan is the state’s top-ranking epidemiologist, and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Deputy Director for the Center of Infectious Diseases. She is also a Clinical Professor in Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of California, San Francisco. She was appointed by Governor Newsom to co-chair the Community Vaccine Advisory Committee and has been actively working to help lead COVID-19 response for CDPH.