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New York state's health commissioner has some advice for staying healthy during the holidays

Dr. Jim McDonald, New York state health commissioner.
Mike Wren
New York State Department of Health
Dr. Jim McDonald, New York state health commissioner.

RSV is the virus that’s circulating the most widely this holiday season, followed by COVID-19 and the flu, according to New York state’s health commissioner.

Dr. James McDonald said people should go ahead and attend holiday gatherings this year without too much worry about becoming ill — but now is the time to get up to date on your vaccinations if you haven’t done so already.

“If you're 60 and older with an underlying health condition, let's get that RSV vaccine for you,” McDonald said. “If you're someone who hasn't gotten the flu vaccine, let's work on that as well. And if you haven't gotten the COVID vaccine … why don't we just check that off, too.”

Fewer than 10% of New Yorkers have received the latest version of the COVID booster shot. The RSV vaccine is only offered to New Yorkers older than 60, or who have immune-compromising conditions. There’s a separate RSV vaccination for babies.

McDonald said those who are immune-compromised can wear a mask for extra protection. And he said people should use their own judgment about when to wear a mask, saying it would be appropriate when visiting an elderly relative or friend in a nursing home.

Rapid tests to detect the presence of the COVID virus are still a good tool, he said. They are most accurate when someone is experiencing symptoms of illness.

He said the simplest advice, though, to stop the spread of any infections this holiday season: If you’re sick, stay home.

“I think that's just a really important point is if you're not feeling well, you're not going to have a good time, and you're probably going to spread your infection,” McDonald said. “So call your host and say ‘Thanks for the invitation. But I'm not going to go.’ And I think your host will appreciate that.”

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.