BARTLESVILLE, Okla. –As Oklahomans gather to celebrate the holidays with their families and loved ones, the Oklahoma State Department of Health District 4 reminds everyone to remain vigilant this holiday season to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 – especially among those most vulnerable to the disease.

“No one wants to see a repeat of the overwhelming spike in COVID cases that we faced during the holidays last year,” says James Thompson, Regional Director for OSDH District 4, an eight-county region including Craig, Delaware, Mayes, Nowata, Ottawa, Rogers, Wagoner and Washington counties. “Since our second peak in August, Oklahoma’s COVID-19 cases have decreased dramatically. As families gather to celebrate together, we ask that everyone stays vigilant so that we can continue to minimize COVID-19 risk. And the best way to minimize COVID-19 risk and keep your family and friends safer is to get vaccinated.”

Everyone aged 5 and older is eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Adults 18 and older may receive the FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer, Janssen (J&J) or Moderna. Children between the ages of 5-11 years may only receive the pediatric Pfizer vaccine dose. Adolescents between 12-17 years may only receive the Pfizer vaccine. Booster and third doses are currently available for certain adult populations (verify eligibility with a health care provider or contact your local health department).

“No one wants to watch helplessly while their loved one is in a hospital fighting COVID-19, and especially over the holidays,” says Thompson. “If we work together, we can enjoy safer holidays and safer travel, while protecting the health of ourselves, our families and our loved ones.”

The following CDC travel guidelines and special considerations are for those considering traveling for a holiday gathering or event:

Travel Guidance

• Delay travel until fully vaccinated. If you are not fully vaccinated and must travel, please follow the CDC’s domestic travel or international travel recommendations for unvaccinated people

• If you will be traveling in a group or family with unvaccinated people, choose safer travel options.

• Everyone, even people who are fully vaccinated, is required to wear a mask on public transportation.

Special Considerations

• People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken their immune system may not be fully protected even if they are fully vaccinated and have received an additional dose. They should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people, including wearing a well-fitted mask, until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider.

• You might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission if a member of your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated.

• If you are gathering with a group of people from multiple households and potentially from different parts of the country, you could consider additional precautions (e.g., avoiding crowded indoor spaces before travel, taking a test) in advance of gathering to further reduce risk.

• Do NOT put a mask on children younger than 2 years old.

COVID-19 Testing

According to the CDC, the following people should get tested for COVID-19:

• People who have symptoms of COVID-19.

• People who have come into close contact with someone with COVID-19 should be tested to check for infection.

• Fully vaccinated people should be tested 5–7 days after their last exposure.

• People who are not fully vaccinated should get tested immediately when they find out they are a close contact. If their test result is negative, they should get tested again 5–7 days after their last exposure or immediately if symptoms develop.

• People not fully vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccine who are prioritized for expanded community screening for COVID-19.

• People not fully vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccine who have been asked or referred to get testing by their school, workplace, healthcare provider, or state/tribal/local/territorial health department.

COVID-19 testing and vaccines are available at all county health departments in District 4, as well as many pharmacies, urgent care clinics and primary care physicians. For more information, contact the Craig County Health Department at 918-256-7531; Delaware County Health Department at 918-253-4511; Mayes County Health Department at 918-825-4224; Ottawa County Health Department at 918-540-2481; Rogers County Health Department at 918-341-3166; Wagoner County Health Department at 918-485-3022; or Washington County Health Department at 918-335-3005