“We have the ability to protect ourselves against COVID. We know a lot more about the virus."By Chris Hoffman

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The holidays are here and so is the pandemic. Doctors said we are safer this year but should still have precautions.

Allegheny Health Network emergency physician Dr. Arvind Venkat said it should be a better holiday season this year.

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“We have the ability to protect ourselves against COVID. We know a lot more about the virus,” he said over Zoom.

According to the emergency physician, the best way to stay safe is by getting the vaccine.

“The vaccine has now been given to billions of people across the world. It’s extraordinarily safe. It’s extraordinarily effective,” Dr. Venkat said.

He said that doesn’t mean unvaccinated family members or friends should be shunned. To keep everyone safe, it’s recommended to wear masks inside with unvaccinated people.

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“It’s not going to go away completely. It’s a respiratory virus. Like the flu virus or cold virus, it’s going to be lingering with us. We have to find a way to live with it,” Dr. Venkat said.

According to him, if you’re shopping inside, it’s recommended you wear a mask. If you are at a Christmas tree farm, you shouldn’t need one.

“You’re outdoors. It’s should be pretty safe,” Dr. Venkat said.

There is concern for a surge after the holidays. Dr. Venkat said his department is short staffed and more COVID-19 cases don’t help.

“We need everyone to be working together to protect themselves and protect each other so that we in the emergency department can be there for you when you have an emergency,” he said.

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The doctor said many children won’t be vaccinated for Thanksgiving but could be fully vaccinated for Christmas.