Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Minimize COVID-19 holiday spread with small gatherings, mask wearing

Soldiers standing in a line, wearing masks Ft. Stewart, Georgia soldiers prepare to deploy during the holidays. (Photo courtesy of Ft. Stewart Public Affairs.)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

The holiday season is upon us, and so is a drastic rise in coronavirus cases, now in the red zone across most of the U.S. and its territories. How can you celebrate holiday gatherings while staying as safe as possible from the disease?

Military and public health officials agree: For Thanksgiving, staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others. If you must travel, be informed of the risks involved.

“I completely understand the stressors the holidays add during these unprecedented times,” said Air Force Col. Gwendolyn Foster, commander of the 60th Medical Group at Travis Air Force Base. ”We all want to connect and be close with family during the holiday, mine included; however, in light of the increase in COVID-19 cases across the United States, the risk is too great.”

The Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division (AFHSD) said in a briefing statement: “There is no indication the COVID-19 situation will be reversing any time soon….The probability exists for this situation to go from bad to worse as we head into the holidays.”

In fact, as of Nov. 20, 95 of 120 military installation markets were at “very high risk (red) for COVID-19,” AFHSD Integrated Biosurveillance Chief Juan Ubiera said in a Nov. 24 statement. AFHSD defines markets as groups of military installations with the same general geographic area. Hot spots are defined as 25 new cases per 100,000/day for all counties within 30 miles of a given installation or market, Ubiera stated. 

The Department of Defense has reported approximately 109,000 COVID-19 cases and 119 deaths. That compares to the U.S. civilian figures of more than 12.3 million cases and more than 258,000 deaths based on data from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The risk of COVID in the local civilian community is a very good proxy for the risk of an installation….where they shop, worship, eat, go to school, and visit friends and family” rather than where they work, said Navy Capt. Natalie Wells, AFHSD chief of Epidemiology and Analysis.

Person washing hands
Military and public health personnel are urging Americans not to travel during the holidays, and, if they do, to follow all necessary precautions – wear a mask, socially distance and wash hands frequently. (Courtesy Photo from 21st Space Wing, Peterson AFB, Colorado.)

Army Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg, the Defense Health Agency’s senior enlisted leader, stated “These holidays may look a bit different than we anticipated, but that does not diminish their relevance.” He suggested using “lessons learned” over the last year of the pandemic for safer holidays.

“Continue to follow local guidelines, wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face, stay physically distanced and wear a two-layer mask,” he said. “Your discipline in doing these simple things will get us through the finish line. Some of us are going to miss seeing family and friends, while others will be working through the holidays to stay in the fight. I urge all of you to find ways to stay socially connected with loved ones while maintaining appropriate physical distance.”

More than 120 DOD Title 10 personnel have been deployed to support the COVID-19 response to the medical surge needs. Nearly 17,000 National Guard and more than 900 state active duty personnel have also been deployed.

The CDC is urging Americans not to travel to holiday gatherings if they have recently been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have not met the criteria for when it is safe to be around others. Or if they have symptoms of COVID-19, are awaiting coronavirus test results, may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the last 14 days or are at increased risk of severe illness.

The CDC is particularly emphatic about urging extra precautions for family members who live outside the gathering place, such as military personnel or college students returning home for the holidays. Service personnel, students or other guests who do not live with you or in your housing unit should be considered from different households and therefore pose potentially greater risks of disease exposure.

Duration of contact also counts, the CDC website also informed – ‘Being within six feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk of becoming sick and requires a 14-day personal quarantine.' Some individuals with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, which pushes the risks even higher.

Additionally, the CDC recommends having holiday gatherings outdoors, if possible. If winter weather stops outdoor gatherings, stay indoors but open windows and doors to circulate air. COVID-19 virus particles do not survive as long outdoors as they do in confined poorly ventilated and fully enclosed indoor spaces.

DOD travel guidelines remain in effect and are detailed in an Aug. 6 memorandum, “Force Health Protection Guidance (Supplement 12),” for personnel traveling during the pandemic. This memo is under revision and will be published in the next few days, said AFHSD Integrated Biosurveillance Chief Dr. Jose Sanchez.

“The revised memo will address pre- and post-testing guidance, the restriction-to-movement period after travel, provision of waivers and post-travel recommendations to decrease transmission,” he said.

“It is recommended that family members or other close contacts should consider having a post-travel COVID-19 molecular PCR test within 3-5 days of return, especially if travel included an area or country with high-level transmission,” Sanchez added.

The CDC offers a wealth of information about holiday gatherings with those outside the immediate host household and to help make the decision whether to travel to places outside your immediate home, including international travel.

You also may be interested in...

Get to Know the Vaccines

Publication
9/17/2021

A graphic showing the types of vaccines, how they work, and safety monitoring of the vaccines. Includes the MHS and TRICARE logos on the bottom right, and includes graphics of scientists, doctors, and patients.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines

Get to know the COVID19 Vaccines

Publication
9/17/2021

Get to know the vaccines – they do not contain the live virus, they do not interact with our DNA, and have been tested rigorously.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines

Line Leader Presentation (PDF)

Publication
8/4/2021

This document is identical to the PowerPoint presentation for line leader reference and use.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Line Leader Presentation (Powerpoint)

Publication
8/4/2021

Leaders across the Department can leverage this briefing deck to discuss COVID-19 vaccines with their troops. Don't forget to reference speaker notes and to personalize the title slide!

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

VAX Facts about Getting the COVID Vaccine at the Same Time as Others

Publication
6/9/2021

Printable PDF of VAX Fact Infographic

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vax Facts

Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines

Publication
6/9/2021

The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccines were developed to prevent infection from the virus that causes COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines (Combined)

Publication
6/9/2021

The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccines were developed to prevent infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Learn about the vaccines, how they work and safety precautions.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

Publication
6/9/2021

Learn how the different COVID-19 vaccines work.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Monitoring

Publication
6/9/2021

The FDA and CDC continue to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. CDC has an independent group of experts that reviews all the safety data as it comes in and provides regular safety updates.

Recommended Content:

Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry User Guide for Service Members

Publication
6/1/2021

The following guide is designed to help service members navigate the complete registry process. It describes the registry requirements; provides an in-depth, step-by-step guide for accessing, registering, and completing the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry questionnaire; and provides instructions for scheduling the optional, in-person medical exam.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry | Environmental Exposures

COVID-19 Vaccine Leader Card

Publication
5/27/2021

This printable card provides talking points when discussing the COVID-19 vaccine with servicemembers who are reluctant or indifferent to accepting the vaccine. The card lists common concerns and impressions, top 5 key messages, and supporting facts about the vaccine.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vax Facts

Unit Leader Vaccine Conversation Guide

Publication
5/24/2021

This guide offers approaches and illustrative examples for preparation, delivery, and navigation of small group discussions (recommended 1-5 people to facilitate greatest engagement) with servicemembers reluctant or indifferent to accepting the vaccine. The guide promotes an open dialogue regarding vaccine hesitancy and complacency by addressing concerns, building trust, and boosting vaccine confidence.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vax Facts

Provider Vaccine Conversation Guide

Publication
5/24/2021

This guide offers approaches and illustrative examples for Military Health System (MHS) providers to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine with servicemembers during routine visits. Initiating a COVID-19 vaccine conversation during servicemember visits will allow you to effectively address concerns, build trust, and boost vaccine confidence.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vax Facts

COVID-19 Vaccine Approved for Adolescents Ages 12 and Over

Publication
5/13/2021

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for those ages 12 and over. Includes a photo of adolescents at the top of the page, has the TRICARE logo at the bottom right. Links in the content include www.TRICARE.mil/VaccineAppointments and www.Vaccines.gov.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Vaccine Eligibility

VAX Facts about Breastfeeding

Publication
4/21/2021

Printable PDF of VAX Fact Infographic

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vax Facts
<< < 1 2 3 4 5 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 5

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.