Stressed about holiday gatherings? Here’s how you can celebrate safely

CHARLOTTE — Doctors have been recommending how people can reunite with family members and friends this holiday season, and as Thanksgiving approaches, Channel 9 spoke with a local medical expert about how families can gather safely.

Thanksgiving looks a bit more normal this year compared to last year, but health officials want everyone to keep their guards up and stay healthy. Many will be traveling to gather with loved ones -- and some may be vaccinated, and some might not be.

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StarMed’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Arin Piramzadian, said that thanks to widely available vaccines, testing and overall knowledge about how to handle the virus, it should be safer than last year -- although it might not be the post-pandemic Thanksgiving people were hoping for.

“It’s definitely going to be a lot better than what we were afraid of,” Piramzadian explained. “We were expecting numbers to be significantly elevated by this point. Luckily, with people getting vaccinated and kids starting to get vaccinated, numbers are going up, just not as fast as what we thought they were going to.”

He said COVID-19 fatigue is real and understands that families want to get together. Piramzadian said that, for the most part, they can gather. If everyone at a gathering is fully vaccinated, he said it’s fine not to wear masks. If there are members who are not vaccinated, he said mask-wearing is the best option.

“There’s nothing magical about this virus,” Piramzadian said. “We know how viral infections spread, when people are indoors and close together, and this one is no different.”

Piramzadian said that people who are not vaccinated yet have missed the window for protection in time for Thanksgiving.

“At this point, there’s no legitimate reason not to get vaccinated,” Piramzadian said. “If you don’t want to get vaccinated, at least get tested so you don’t spread it to other people.”

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As far as testing, Piramzadian said anyone can go to any StarMed location without an appointment for a PCR, or a rapid antigen test. The same goes for vaccines or monoclonal antibody treatments. The turnaround time for PCR tests is about 24 hours, so he suggests getting tested by Tuesday.

He also explained that COVID-19 case numbers are on the rise and will only get higher. Piramzadian expects another surge to hit around Christmas and said our behavior now is crucial.

“The thing that worries us the most is people have stopped wearing masks the way they should be,” Piramzadian said. “The hospitals are still full of patients, so this hasn’t gone away. Unfortunately, the way it’s going, it may never go away. The way we need to be safe is to get vaccinated so if you’re exposed you either don’t get sick, or if you do, it’s minimal.”

(Watch the video below: Flying through CLT for Thanksgiving? Here’s what you should expect)