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Despite grim COVID holiday forecast, many families double efforts to keep celebrations safe

Holiday festivities prompted many to get booster shots and rapid antigen COVID-19 tests in an effort to keep gatherings safe, especially for the very young, the elderly and those with health conditions.

It’s been two years since 12th grade teacher Matthew Hu, of Fullerton, has been able to gather with his aunts, uncles and cousins.

“During the pandemic, we were only was able to celebrate with our immediate family. So, just like me, my mom, my dad and brother. We have a lot of older people in our family so we want to make sure that we are really safe for them and I want to be as safe as I can be,” said Hu.

For Hu, that meant getting a COVID-19 booster shot as soon as he could.

Appointments have been filling up at pharmacies across Southern California.

“We’ve had a lot of people coming in for the boosters, it’s been very busy in the last couple of weeks (because of people) anticipating travel and that sort of thing,” said USC Verdugo Hills Pharmacist Megan Matthews.

How to keep holiday gatherings safe as experts predict surge of cases after Thanksgiving

It can be tricky to know everyone’s vaccination status. Because of this, Matthews said popular rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 have been hard to keep in stock.

“It gives you a good idea of whether you’re contagious at the point of the test. So it’s good to have one. It’s good to take one every day, especially if you’re going to be with members of a family who are immunocompromised, or who are at higher risk,” she said.

A new CDC forecast shows hospital admissions and deaths will increase during the holidays. The model forecasts nearly 15,000 virus-related deaths in the U.S. over the next two weeks.

“It does come in every few month cycles so we need to remain vigilant and stay on top of it,” said Matthews.

While 30 million Americans have received additional shots, health officials warn we need hundreds of millions more people to roll up their sleeves.

“I’m glad that I did because it’s more protection for me. More protection for my friends and my family.”

That’s his hope for a safe Thanksgiving celebration.

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