As the number of new cases of COVID-19 continues to surge in Virginia, public health officials strongly encourage everyone who plans to attend indoor worship services and holiday gatherings in the coming days and weeks to take steps to slow the spread of the virus, regardless of your vaccination status.
“Large indoor gatherings, such as Christmas services, increase the potential for transmission of disease and come as Loudoun County and the greater Northern Virginia region are experiencing a winter surge of COVID-19,” said Loudoun County Health Director Dr. David Goodfriend. “The average number of daily cases of COVID-19 in Loudoun has tripled over the past month; many of these cases are in fully vaccinated individuals, who are more likely to have mild or no symptoms while contagious and therefore may unknowingly spread the virus to others.”
Dr. Goodfriend asks that residents voluntarily take these steps as they gather to worship this Christmas even when there are no requirements to do so:
- Wear masks while indoors. Mask usage has been shown to reduce COVID-19 transmission and is particularly important when social distancing cannot be maintained.
- Get tested before going to church or holiday gatherings. Home tests are available at local pharmacies. (Find testing locations on the Virginia Department of Health website.)
- Attend virtual services. If your church offers a virtual option for Christmas services, consider staying home and watching the service online.
- Stay home when sick. Consider worshipping at home if you are sick for any reason, at increased risk of a severe infection due to age or medical status, or if you are otherwise uncomfortable attending a large-scale event during the COVID-19 winter surge.
“These measures are proven to help slow the spread of respiratory diseases, including COVID-19 and the flu,” said Dr. Goodfriend. “We can voluntarily do our part by taking these simple steps to protect ourselves, our families and others in the community who may be more susceptible to serious illness and death.”
Public health officials continue to recommend wearing a mask in public indoor spaces, in part, because breakthrough cases of COVID-19 are possible. Breakthrough cases are those that occur in fully vaccinated people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveillance data shows that the Omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 now represents more than 70 percent of all cases in the United States. The Virginia Department of Health urges everyone who has not yet been vaccinated or received a booster dose to do so as soon as they are eligible, along with continuing other disease mitigation measures that slow the rapid spread of the virus. The vast majority of individuals who are hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.
Anyone 5 and older is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine and anyone 16 and older is eligible for a booster. Find vaccination opportunities near you at vaccines.gov. Loudoun County also offers vaccination appointments at its Dulles Town Center clinic; visit loudoun.gov/covid19vaccine for more information.
For additional information about COVID-19 and to sign up for COVID-19 text and email updates from Loudoun County, visit loudoun.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with questions about COVID-19 vaccine may call the Health Department's information line at 703-737-8300 or send an email to the Health Department.
# # #