By Dr. Itzhak Brook
Passover creates challenges for those who are looking forward to celebrating the seder in person with friends and family. The availability of vaccines against the virus has made it easier to resume the tradition of in-person seders, although the risk of acquiring the infection is still high in some situations.
Having the seder in close settings can be risky because of the difficulty of maintaining social distance and adequate ventilation. Mask wearing is impractical while eating and drinking.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People provide useful guidelines that can help plan a safe seder and avoid risky scenarios that would allow the COVID-19 virus to spread.
For the purposes of the CDC’s recommendations, people are considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 more than two weeks after they have received the second dose in a two-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) or more than two weeks after they have received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson/Janssen).
Interpretation of the CDC recommendations for the seder scenario for fully vaccinated people means:
-It is permissible for fully vaccinated people to celebrate the seder indoors with other fully vaccinated people or unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease without wearing masks or physical distancing.
-Wearing masks, practicing physical distancing and adhering to other prevention measures is required when celebrating the seder with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease.
-Wearing masks, maintaining physical distance and practicing other prevention measures are required when celebrating with unvaccinated people from multiple households.
-Avoiding medium- and large-sized seders
-Unvaccinated individuals from different households should refrain from celebrating at an in-person seder.
Although the available vaccines are helpful in curbing the spread of COVID-19, their efficacy against the variants of the virus is unknown. These variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. It is therefore prudent to continue to maintain vigilance during the upcoming holiday.
Dr. Itzhak Brook is an adjunct professor of pediatrics at Georgetown University.