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Doctor offers advice for safe Thanksgiving gatherings

With Thanksgiving less than a week away, friends and families are getting together for the holiday. There are a few things you can do to make that dinner safer.

VIRGINIA, USA — Thanksgiving and holiday gatherings are fast approaching, but Virginia is still considered a state with a "substantial" spread of coronavirus. 

While medical experts say COVID-19 vaccines are the best form of protection, they're not 100% effective at keeping people from catching the virus.

Dr. Elizabeth Broderick with Children's Clinic in Newport News offered advice to everyone in Hampton Roads ahead of Thanksgiving gatherings.

"If we improve ventilation in indoor spaces, and we mask in indoor spaces, we can get transmission down. We know we can make this work," Broderick said. 

If you can't bring the gathering outdoors, she encouraged people to try opening some windows.

"Maybe it's time to break out those ugly Christmas sweaters a little bit early," she said.

And she told 13News Now it's ideal if everyone in the group is healthy and vaccinated against COVID-19.

"But if some unvaccinated people are in the room with us, all our children under 12 are only partially protected at best, then all of us should probably mask -- unless we are actively eating or drinking," Broderick said.

When it comes to testing, Broderick only recommended the rapid kind if you're actually feeling sick.

"If you are not vaccinated and you feel fine, but you want to be careful because your relative has a brand-new baby, you would need to get the PCR test, because the rapid test is not actually accurate unless you're actually sick," she said. 

And Nov. 19 marked the last day someone could start their two-dose vaccine series and complete it in time for Christmas, but experts say it's not too late to start protecting yourself.

"It's always worth starting," Broderick said. "If I had elderly relatives, I'd rather bring my partially protected third grader into the house than an unprotected third grader into the house. It's going to give us a happy new year, if we don't get sick."

Broderick also said we've made great progress since this time last year, but she urged everyone not to let their guards down.

In addition to the COVID-19 vaccine, Broderick also encouraged the flu vaccine. She said they're seeing cases of flu pick up in the area.