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Vaccines, masks recommended as families gather for Thanksgiving

"For people that are going to be in crowded places or traveling, especially using public transportation and flying, it's important to use masks," said Dr. Kasirye.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — One issue families are facing this Thanksgiving is the worry of viral infections

Health officials say they're seeing COVID-19, RSV, and flu numbers starting to increase earlier than usual. Some families are planning to celebrate safely, while others are still up in the air as to whether they will be able to gather. 

"So far, since I'm taking my second booster tomorrow, I'm not sure how I'm gonna be feeling, so I might just be at home," said Cheryl Heathman, who feels protected by the COVID-19 boosters. 

Heathman is preparing for her fourth COVID-19 vaccine. She says her family is only having a small gathering after seeing cases increase. 

"We're seeing a mild increase in COVID transmission, so we were in a bit of a lull and it's increasing, which is expected because winter is coming on and the temperature and humidity favor transmission of COVID in winter," said Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of Pediatric Infection Diseases with UC Davis Health. 

"What we've noticed this year is that the flu and RSV numbers have started increasing a little earlier than they usually do," said Dr. Olivia Kasirye, Public Health Officer for Sacramento County. 

The RSV impact is mostly seen in children, especially in those less than 5 years old, but adults can still contract the respiratory virus.

According to the Sacramento County Public Health Dashboard, COVID case numbers spiked following the holidays.

Ton Dang, a vaccinated father, says he and his family are planning to gather regardless.

"We're not really concerned about that. I think we're, you know, we've come to terms, and if we get it, we get it and it's not life threatening. So we feel fairly comfortable having folks over and enjoying a good time," said Dang. 

Health officials say there are actions people can take to guard themselves and their loved ones.

"Encourage people to be up to date with all their vaccines including the influenza vaccine for this season as well as all COVID vaccine doses and boosters which you're eligible for," said Dr. Blumberg. 

"For people that are going to be in crowded places or traveling, especially using public transportation (or) flying. It's important to use masks; even though they're voluntary right now, we know that they're still very effective," said Dr. Kasirye.

If you're feeling sick, they say plain and simple, just stay home and protect others who may be more vulnerable.

"It's OK to say 'no,' if you're invited somewhere and you're not feeling well. I think everybody will understand that - why you're not able to attend," said Heathman. 

Doctors encourage people to watch their symptoms and to not attend a gathering if they feel sick. Some of the common symptoms of COVID-19, RSV, and the flu are fever, runny nose, sore throat or cough. 


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