dr. gary voccio, covid-19, cdc, health, holidays, christmas, spread, v3, readv3

Dr. Gary Voccio

Like everything else in 2020, the holiday season is going to look a little different. Experts say that in order to protect our communities, we need to limit gatherings and take proper precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.


            This is not the year to have the entire extended family over for a holiday dinner. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “celebrating virtually or with members of your own household (who are consistently taking measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19) poses the lowest risk for spread.”

            If you do plan to combine households or participate in a larger gathering, the CDC recommends taking all possible precautions. Remember these guidelines from the CDC:

  • Indoor gatherings pose more risk than outdoor gatherings. Consider a picinic-style meal on the porch or lawn.
  • A distance of six feet or more between members of different households can reduce spread.
  • Safety measures such as wearing masks, handwashing, and avoiding physical contact with members of other households can reduce spread.
  • Limit contact with and clean commonly touched surfaces and any shared items such as doorknobs, serving utensils, garbage cans, etc.
  • Encourage guests to bring food for themselves and their household.
  • Those who have potentially been exposed to COVID-19 and those who are at increased risk for severe illness should not attend any in-person gatherings.

The CDC also recommends avoiding travel as much as possible and urges those who do decide to travel to wear masks, maintain physical distancing, and wash their hands often.

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Community Spread

            Another thing to consider before hosting or attending any kind of gathering it the recent levels of COVID-19 in your community. Dr. Gary Voccio, health director for the Northwest Health District of the Georgia Department of Public Health, says that the rates of positive COVID test results have been relatively high in recent weeks. 

“We’re testing about a thousand people a day now, and unfortunately we are seeing a rise in the positive case rate throughout northwest Georgia,” Voccio says. “We’re seeing… anywhere from 13-20% positive rates for our testing sites, and those are very high numbers.”

            Voccio says that all 10 counties represented by the Northwest Health District are considered high-transmission counties. “We do have high community transition of COVID-19 in our area, all of our ten counties… particularly Bartow and Floyd,” he says. “We have to be very careful of being exposed to COVID. We don’t want to overwhelm our hospitals, we don’t want people with preexisting conditions… to be exposed to COVID because those are the people that could get really sick and may end up in the hospital on a ventilator.”

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Though Voccio shares the disappointment of not having traditional holiday gatherings, he says it’s important to recognize that things are just going to be different this year. “It’s going to be sad not to be able to be with our large family gatherings… but that’s how COVID is spread, with large groups being in close proximity and indoors,” Voccio says. “We used to have a large gathering at our house, we’ve been doing it for 30 years, but now it’s going to be a much smaller group with just our immediate family.”

            Voccio reiterates the importance of masks, physical distancing, and frequent handwashing. More details on CDC guidelines can be found at cdc.gov/coronavirus.