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CDC issues new COVID-19 guidance for the holiday season

New holiday COVID-19 guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges eligible people to get vaccinated against the virus and wear masks — in some cases — when gathering. 

"Because many generations tend to gather to celebrate holidays, the best way to minimize COVID-19 risk and keep your family and friends safer is to get vaccinated if you're eligible," the CDC says in its guidance, issued on Friday. 

Children in the United States who are 11 years old and younger are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.  

"Protect those not yet eligible for vaccination such as young children by getting yourself and other eligible people around them vaccinated," the CDC says. 

Getting vaccinated helps protect those have the vaccine against severe illness and death from COVID-19. Unvaccinated adults are over 6 times more likely to test positive for the virus and more than 11 times more likely to die from it compared to those who are fully vaccinated, the CDC found.

When it comes to gathering this holiday season, the agency says it is generally safer to gather outdoors than indoors. 

For those who are gathering at indoor public spaces, unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated people should wear well-fitting masks over their nose and mouth, if they're 2 or older. Fully vaccinated individuals in areas with substantial to high transmission rates should also wear masks in public indoor settings.

People who have a weakened immune system should also wear a mask when gathering. "You might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission if a member of your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated," the CDC says.

For those who intend to travel for the holidays, the CDC recommends avoiding doing so if you are not fully vaccinated. 

"If you are not fully vaccinated and must travel, follow CDC's domestic travel or international travel recommendations for unvaccinated people," it says.

In September, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that the U.S. could be facing another "dark winter," although that can be avoided.

"If we don't get people vaccinated who need to be vaccinated, and we get that conflating with an influenza season, we could have a dark, bad winter," Fauci told CBS News' Major Garrett. "...We could also avoid a dark, bad winter if we get people vaccinated to a very high degree over the next several weeks to a month or two." 

Fauci's fear has been expressed by other health experts as well. 

Earlier this week, research presented at an American Academy of Pediatrics conference showed that last year's decline in flu and common respiratory viruses last winter was due to people wearing masks and social distancing. If that same level of precaution isn't followed this fall and winter, experts said, there could be a "twindemic" of COVID-19 and the flu. 

"Although each of these things is not perfect, taken together, they really are effective in preventing illness," Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said. "...It just shows you that these viruses, which are really very contagious, will take advantage of us as we open up, gather together, take off our masks." 

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