After COVID-19 vaccines rolled out, many households mentioned “good riddance” to Zoom and resumed in-person vacation gatherings—and with increasing numbers of people embracing pre-pandemic lifestyles, it’s protected to imagine that would be the norm this 12 months within the U.S. However the virus nonetheless infects tens of 1000’s of People each day, and consultants worry another winter surge may be coming, simply in time for the vacations.

Should you’re planning to journey or collect with family members this vacation season, comply with these professional suggestions to maximise your probabilities of staying protected and wholesome.

Get boosted now

Do you have to get your Omicron booster now, or wait till proper earlier than the vacations? Dr. Kristin Moffitt, an infectious illness doctor at Boston Kids’s Hospital, suggests getting your shot now, reasonably than making an attempt to time it for proper earlier than vacation occasions. After getting vaccinated, it takes every week or two in your immune response to develop. That safety ought to keep robust for no less than two months, so “if individuals received boosted now, their most immunity from that booster would get them by way of the tip of 2022,” Moffitt says.

Earlier than eager about boosters, in fact, you must ensure that everybody in your loved ones has had their main vaccinations, says Dr. Lilly Immergluck, a pediatric infectious illness specialist on the Morehouse College of Drugs. That’s particularly necessary recommendation for households with youngsters, given the dismally low vaccination rates among young children.

Speedy check earlier than you collect

When new variants emerge, there’s usually concern that at-home exams gained’t have the ability to detect them. However Dr. Roy Gulick, chief of infectious illness at Weill Cornell Drugs and NewYork-Presbyterian, says speedy exams ought to nonetheless choose up BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 infections, since these variants are Omicron family.

Frequent testing might help forestall these in your circle from unknowingly spreading the virus at vacation occasions. When Immergluck’s family stayed collectively over the Fourth of July weekend, she requested everybody to take a speedy check day by day. “That’s not a 100% [guarantee],” she says, “nevertheless it’s about pretty much as good as we may get.”

Should you check unfavourable however have basic COVID-19 signs comparable to sore throat, chills, and physique aches, it’s nonetheless greatest to remain house, Gulick provides.

Keep protected throughout journey

Masks aren’t required for most travel anymore, however Gulick nonetheless advises sporting one—no less than throughout sure parts of your journey. Generally, air high quality on planes is healthier than on buses and trains, so your probabilities of getting sick within the air are pretty low. However Gulick recommends masking whereas within the airport and when your airplane is taxiing, since filtration programs might not be turned on when the airplane is grounded. And if you happen to’re touring by bus or practice, it’s a good suggestion to masks throughout your complete journey.

Regulate the info

COVID-19 case counts aren’t as correct as they as soon as had been, in large part because so many people now test themselves at house as a substitute of utilizing laboratories the place outcomes are then reported to public-health authorities. However there are nonetheless some metrics you may watch to get a way of viral prevalence in your space. Hospitalization and demise charges are nonetheless stable indicators of how extensively the virus is spreading, Immergluck says. Moffitt additionally recommends being attentive to check positivity charges. Even when fewer individuals get examined in laboratories, understanding the share of exams that come again constructive is “a reasonably dependable marker as a result of it’s relative to the variety of exams which can be being carried out,” she says.

Think about who you’re seeing

Should you’ll be spending time with family members who’re immunocompromised, unvaccinated, or aged, chances are you’ll wish to improve your precautions, maybe by masking indoors or preserving festivities outdoors. “We have to defend [vulnerable] individuals by not giving them the virus,” Gulick says.

Don’t neglect about different viruses

COVID-19 has dominated our considering for the previous few years, however influenza and RSV are additionally sickening a number of individuals proper now. Moffitt says that’s all of the extra purpose to take precautions like masking throughout journey and avoiding high-risk settings, comparable to crowded indoor occasions, within the week or so earlier than your vacation plans. Getting a flu shot can also be an necessary winter well being measure, Gulick says, and one which can be done when you’re getting your COVID-19 booster.

Extra Should-Learn Tales From TIME

Write to Jamie Ducharme at