Statement from New York State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald on Preparing for a Healthy and Happy Holiday Season

Albany, N.Y. (December 21, 2023) – "As we look forward to sharing the joy of the holiday season with family and friends, I remind all New Yorkers to take simple precautions to keep the holidays safe and healthy.

Sharing a meal is one of the best ways to build memories and create a festive atmosphere. Remember to keep perishable food cold, to thaw frozen meat in the refrigerator and heat it to the correct temperature, keep food preparation areas clean, and thoroughly wash your hands while handing and cooking food.

Be mindful of the effect of what seems like a harmless cold can have on older loved ones, and those with medical challenges. If you are experiencing symptoms of illness, such as fever, cough, sore throat, or runny nose, consider staying home or wearing a mask to avoid spreading that illness to your loved ones.

Right now, New Yorkers are being exposed to RSV, COVID and Flu, and the good news is, I have a vaccine for you. We are fortunate that for the first time, we have three safe and effective vaccines that can provide protection from flu, COVID and RSV. This week, the World Health Organization named the JN.1 COVID variant a 'variant of interest' because of its rapidly increasing spread, in the wake of recent holiday travel and gatherings. So, I encourage all New Yorkers to get vaccinated ahead of the holidays, so illness does not prevent you from enjoying your holiday celebrations with family and friends.

And be sure to keep an eye on the little ones when opening gifts and enjoying each other's company, to avoid choking hazards from toys and decorations.

Finally, I wish you peace, joy and good memories as you share your holiday traditions with those you hold most dear."