Published on December 20, 2021

Silver Cross Infection Prevention Expert Weighs in on Staying Safe this Holiday Season with COVID on the Rise

The holidays are here, and along with all the shopping, baking and celebrations, COVID-19 is still front and center as we prepare to ring in the new year.

Dr. Atul Gupta
Dr. Atul Gupta

But Dr. Atul Gupta, Medical Director of Infection Protection at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox, said the good news is that vaccines, and boosters, have been shown to lessen the severity, even among the few who are hospitalized with breakthrough cases.

“The vast majority of those who have been admitted have not been vaccinated against COVID,” Dr. Gupta said. “We have seen very few patients with COVID who have been vaccinated, but those patients are not getting very sick. And we have several who are on ventilators in the intensive care unit (ICU), and almost exclusively, those are unvaccinated patients. So, the good news we can still share is that vaccines do seem to be very effective still against hospitalizations, severe COVID and death.”

Dr. Gupta strongly recommends getting the COVID-19 vaccine as well as the booster, at the appropriate times: six months after the second Pfizer (for those ages 16 and older) or Moderna (for those ages 18 and older); and two months after the Johnson & Johnson (also for those 18 and older).

Of those who have been vaccinated and still hospitalized with COVID, Dr. Gupta added, it is almost exclusively those who have not received the booster.

“The most important thing to do is for people to encourage their family and friends to get vaccinated, because it is becoming more and more clear that COVID is not going away, and we still need that protection.”

As recently as early November, the number of COVID cases at Silver Cross was in the 20s and 30s. Now, he said, it is up to the 70s, most of whom who have not been vaccinated. (*As of Dec. 20, the hospital has 88 COVID-positive patients.)

These recent cases are largely attributable to the Delta variant, Dr. Gupta said. While much of the focus lately in the news has been on the Omicron variant that has shown to be more contagious, but also less severe than the Delta variant.

“With the holidays coming up, we need to be very cautious, especially among family members who have not been vaccinated,” Dr. Gupta said, “and especially if we have other family members who are at high risk.”

Dr. Gupta advises staying away from large gatherings where people have not been vaccinated, getting tested, if possible, before attending such gatherings, and staying home with any symptoms until you can find out of you are positive for COVID.

“I know that this last 18 months has been very difficult for everyone, but unfortunately, this virus is still around,” he added. “If we all take the appropriate steps, and be very careful, we can make it through this, for sure.”

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Physicians on Silver Cross Hospital’s Medical Staff have expertise in their areas of practice to meet the needs of patients seeking their care. These physicians are independent practitioners on the Medical Staff and are not the agents or employees of Silver Cross Hospital. They treat patients based upon their independent medical judgment and they bill patients separately for their services.