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Is It Safe To Celebrate Christmas With Big Gatherings This Year?

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- It's the COVID-19 Christmas decision facing almost all families this year. Is the risk of future infection worth the reward of quality time with loved ones?

KDKA's Meghan Schiller took that question to multiple doctors. Plus, she talked to one Shaler grandmother who is weighing her options.

"There's not a one size fits all answer to this, because it all depends on how important this gathering is for you and for some people it's going to be really important and for some people, it may not be," said Dr. Amesh Adalja, infectious disease doctor.

It's up to personal choice, according to Dr. Adalja. He tells KDKA it depends on how big your family is, who is vaccinated and who is not, and who needs to take extra precautions because of health concerns.

Christmas is a 'go' this year for Wendy Murphy and her family.

"There's a total of 10 including 2 children and we all have been vaccinated because some of us have health issues and my mom is 93 so we didn't want her to get anything," said Murphy, Shaler resident.

Everyone's vaccinated to try to minimize the risk, except the little ones who are still too young.

"The only thing we decided was that we were still just going to have family," said Murphy.

KDKA's Meghan Schiller asked, "So no extra people or distant people?"

"No, we normally don't – I mean every great once and a while there's somebody that comes over, but this year it's just going to be us," said Murphy.

It's a decision most families need to make this week. To see distant relatives or keep things small. To travel or stay home. Dr. Adalja explains the risk like this:

"I think it's something that people can enjoy, just know there's always going to be some covid risk," said Dr. Adalja. "The best way to make it safe is to be fully vaccinated, and if you're high risk, make sure that you had a booster vaccination."

He recommends families use at-home testing to try to get the risk rate close to zero. That's why he's frustrated at the supply on the shelves.

"Rapid home tests make that something that can be done very easily if you have access to them, so there was a lot of demand because of the holidays, because of Omicron and there's just not enough supply and I think this is a failure of the government to not have foresight," said Dr. Adalja.

Murphy tells KDKA her family likely won't test this week, but she's scaling back on her festivities leading up to Christmas Eve.

"Probably not go out as often, I won't go to celebrations and things," said Murphy.

A smart move- if you ask Allegheny Health Network's Chief Medical Officer.

"It's better not to take the risk when you have higher risk factors," said Dr. Donald Whiting, Chief Medical Officer, Allegheny Health Network.

Dr. Whiting tells KDKA if you're high risk, don't let your guard down.

"People with co-morbidities and risk factors, even if you've been vaccinated and boosted still are, you know, at a little higher risk than people who don't have those," said Dr. Whiting.

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