By KEVIN ONISHI, Chief Operating Officer, Keiro

As we approach our third winter with COVID-19, I reflect on the early days of the pandemic and how fortunate we are this year to have resources readily available to promote safer gatherings with our family and friends this upcoming holiday season.

While the COVID-19 virus has been adept at mutating to be more easily transmissible, the development of vaccines, treatments and robust testing options have helped us combat COVID-19. This is especially good for all of the older adults and their families that Keiro serves through our programs and resources for healthy aging across the Japanese American and Japanese communities of Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties.

As I start planning my own holiday travel and celebrations with my family here in Los Angeles and back home in San Jose, I am reminded of the simple safety precautions that I can take to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection for myself and others, particularly older adults who continue to be at higher risk for serious illness, hospitalization and death.

With the virus still circulating and activities moving indoors during the winter season, we can all proactively take steps to reduce the risk of illness and transmission. To help celebrate this holiday season safely, we at Keiro want to share this list of tips as we hope it will help keep the older adults you love safe and healthy.

• GET THE UPDATED COVID BOOSTER. Your risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 goes up as you age, and COVID-19 booster doses can help lower the risk of hospitalization and death. Booster doses help sustain protection against severe disease. As variants emerge, updated booster doses remain an important tool to protect against circulating strains. Please contact your healthcare provider and schedule your booster vaccine when you become eligible.

• GET YOUR FLU SHOT. Stay safer from illness this winter by getting your flu vaccine. It is safe to get both the flu shot and the updated COVID-19 booster during the same visit.

• LAYER YOUR PROTECTION. Stay aware of rising cases in your area and if you are at higher risk of severe illness, consider wearing a mask. Family and friends can support your health and wellness by wearing masks, too. Ensure masks fit properly. N95, KN95 and KN94-type masks provide the best protection.

• IMPROVE VENTILATION. Avoid crowded areas with poor ventilation. Open windows or use HEPA air filtration devices to increase air circulation. Wear a mask or gather outdoors, if possible.

• DON’T IGNORE YOUR CHECKUPS. During the pandemic, many patients missed important checkups and doctor visits. It is important that all patients – especially those over 65 – visit and talk to their doctor often and keep all health checkup appointments. This is how we can all achieve our highest level of health and well-being.

• STAY HOME WHEN SICK AND GET TESTED. This may be obvious, but I see friends slipping back into old habits and going to work with the sniffles or a mild cough. It is important stay home and get tested if you have any symptoms of COVID. Follow the quarantine or isolation guidelines posted on the CDC website if you have a close exposure to a positive case or if you test positive.

For information about testing resources in your community, or to schedule a vaccine or booster near you, visit MyTurn.ca.gov.

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Kevin Onishi is the chief operating officer at Keiro, where he oversees day-to-day operational functions of the organization. Prior to this role, he served as the associate executive director at Nikkei Senior Gardens and was former director of programs at Keiro. For more information about Keiro, visit https://www.keiro.org/.

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