Enjoy Thanksgiving with a side of masks and hand sanitizer, says SoCal doctor

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If you are taking a flight to reunite with your family at the Thanksgiving dinner table, you may want to “train” wearing your mask for an extended period of time, according to Dr. José Mayorga from ​​UC Irvine Health Family Health Centers. Photo by Shutterstock.

Roughly 4.4 million Southland residents are expected to hit the road or take to the skies this Thanksgiving. While that’s close to the all-time travel record set in 2019, the pandemic is far from over. 

As health officials are warning of another potential deadly winter surge, UC Irvine Health Family Health Centers physician Dr. José Mayorga shares advice on how we can avoid it and enjoy Thanksgiving safely this year. 

KCRW: What’s the COVID outlook heading into the holiday season this year?

Dr. José Mayorga: We are definitely in a different state of the pandemic. As I like to call it, it's the tool stage of the pandemic. We know all the tools that are available to protect ourselves and protect our loved ones. 

COVID-19 is a winter virus, and it will make its way back to us. We have to have those tools ready at hand. 

… Across different parts of the country, we're seeing cases rise. We haven't hit that comfortable plateau that we would like to be at. 

We want people to be cautious. If you've been vaccinated, you're in a really good position of being well protected. If you've gotten your booster, even more so.

Should people be gathering in-person this year?

I think it's really important for people to enjoy this holiday season. That Thanksgiving celebration really is a moment to thank everyone around the table and see people in-person. 

We know [what] we need to do to stay healthy and safe indoors. Why not give each other that peace of mind knowing that you've done the right thing to protect those around the table?

How can travelers stay safe if they are flying to their destinations?

I myself am going to jump on an airplane, too. I'm going to follow my own advice and mentally prepare myself and my family to have a good safe experience. 

Take that extra time. Remember to take extra masks with you along with some of that hand sanitizer. And be prepared to wear those masks for an extended period of time. It may not be a bad idea to train for it. Some of us feel more comfortable in masks than others. 

And be patient, be courteous to those around you.

If you're going to be traveling to states or areas that are not as cautious, be prepared for that. Take the appropriate things such as an N-95 mask or maybe more masks than usual.

My hope is that people won't give you a hard time. But if they do, really take a deep breath and realize you are doing the right thing for yourself and your family.

Kids 5 through 11 got a recent approval for the Pfizer vaccines. If they’ve only gotten one dose, how much protection does that partial vaccination give them?

Getting that first shot into those 5 to 11-year-olds is a great idea. Of course, we want them to complete the two-shot series of that Pfizer vaccine for children, but definitely they're going to be in a better position [to] be protected.

And it'll give parents a lot of peace of mind [if they get their shot]. It's definitely given me peace of mind now that my three daughters have gotten the shot.

If an unvaccinated adult rolls up their sleeve at this very moment, would they be set for Thanksgiving or at least the rest of the holiday season?

Remember, the sooner you get the vaccine, the sooner those antibody levels will rise to the level that we know are protective. 

Now, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is very different compared to the Pfizer vaccine. If you definitely have a choice, I'd encourage you to get the Moderna [or] Pfizer [vaccine].  

But, if you choose the Johnson and Johnson for its convenience in the one-shot situation, know that there are recommendations that you may need a second dose either of that vaccine or the other two mRNA vaccines.



Matt Guilhem


Tara Atrian