Before heading out this year to celebrate Independence Day with family and friends at barbeques, parades, and firework shows, Virginia Tech public health expert and epidemiologist Laura Hungerford says it’s important that your plans include public health safety measures.

“The 4th of July is a great time to get together, since so many activities take place outside,” says Hungerford. “People who have gotten vaccinated can safely gather inside, outside, and enjoy this holiday. However, the current spread of the more infectious SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant in the U.S., which has caused other countries to put restrictions back in place, makes having unvaccinated people gather a real concern.”

“Hopefully, everyone on your invite list who is 12 or older has already been vaccinated. This protects them both from getting really sick and also from spreading it to others.”

While vaccine trials are underway for young children, Hungerford says to plan carefully and practice safe public health protocols if children who are unvaccinated or under age 12 are on your party list.

“Fortunately, COVID is usually mild in children, but unfortunately this means that they could have COVID without anyone recognizing it. The Delta variant is also reported to sometimes produce signs more like a common cold and people may not realize they have COVID. So, having the party outdoors, having children keep their distance from older adults, and definitely from anyone who is unvaccinated will minimize risk,” says Hungerford.

“It only takes a moment to pass on the virus, so think of imaginary bubbles around each other to stay away from and protect unvaccinated people.”

When it comes to attending large public outdoor events like parades and firework shows, Hungerford says the more people who you are close to at an event and sharing your airspace, the higher the risk that you will be exposed to someone who is spreading the virus.

“The safest choice is to wear a mask if you are unsure of the health of those around you. The sooner you are vaccinated, the more summer activities you can enjoy while keeping yourself and those you love safe.”

About Hungerford
Laura Hungerford is a professor of Veterinary Public Health and Epidemiology and the Department Head for the Department of Population Health Sciences in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech. Read more here.

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