Masks, ventilation and dinners with unvaccinated: how to organize a safe Christmas? | Hour 14 Weekend


The sixth wave of coronavirus leaves an exponential increase in the number of infections. A situation that has already forced the suspension of between 20 and 30% of company dinners and that now threatens the meetings typical of these dates: Christmas Eve, Christmas lunch, New Year’s Eve … If we talk about the accumulated incidence or contagions, the situation is worse than just a year ago. But, thanks to vaccinations, it is better when it comes to those hospitalized or admitted to an intensive care unit.

Before these Christmases, which will not be pre-pandemic but which are not those of 2020, two experts (the neurovirologist José Antonio López Guerrero and the epidemiologist Daniel López Acuña) explain to the SER how to celebrate these holidays in the safest way possible and what the risks are that the pandemic entails.

To these we add the tool that three professors (Kasim Khan, John WM Bush, and Martin Z. Bazant) from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) have launched to study various scenarios and understand the risk of contagion. In this piece we introduce ourselves to some of the scenarios to understand the risks involved.

Scenario 1: company dinner in a restaurant

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Stage 2: karaoke night

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Scenario 3: Christmas Eve with all the precautions

In a 25 square meter room, with 10 people inside, one infected and the Delta variant as predominant. Nobody takes off their mask, the windows are open and everyone is vaccinated.


Scenario 4: dinner without a mask

In a 25 square meter room, with 10 people inside, one infected and the Delta variant as predominant. The meeting is talking and without masks, the windows are open and everyone is vaccinated.

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Scenario 5: lack of ventilation

In a 25 square meter room, with 10 people inside, one infected and the Delta variant as predominant. The meeting is talking and without masks, we analyze a case in which the windows are only opened at certain times and another in which they remain closed all night. Everyone is vaccinated.

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Scenario 6: not everyone is vaccinated

In a 25 square meter room, with 10 people inside, one infected and the Delta variant as predominant. The meeting is speaking and without masks and only 90% of the guests are vaccinated (that is, there is one person who is not). We analyze the same case with the windows open and with them closed.

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What do the experts say?

The neurovirologist José Antonio López Guerrero and the epidemiologist Daniel López Acuña underline the importance of indoor ventilation and the danger of sharing a table with people who have not been vaccinated. These are your answers to the questions that Christmas dinners generate.

Do we put on and take off the masks?

Acuña: You have to remove the mask as little as possible, practically only when you are eating a bite or taking a sip; not to chat and wait to see if we all make it to dinner.

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Guerrero: I’m not going to insist on the mask because we’re not going to fool ourselves: I didn’t do it last year. Once you are with your friends, with your family, with your loved ones … well, you end up relaxing. So we are going to do what can be and implement it.

Should we leave the windows open all the time or can we open them every so often?

Acuña: Given the average size of the floors, keep the windows open as much as possible at all times, bundle up warmly and inevitably get a little cold.

Guerrero: I would certainly not say having the windows open all night. If you can have four little fingers, for example, and that does not mean a reduction in the quality of enjoyment, which is a night to enjoy … Periodic ventilations every so often can be worth it. There are filters that are affordable and you can have a device in your home that somehow purifies the air with specific filters to retain viral particles, either from the coronavirus or other airborne viruses that we can also have.

What does it mean to have a person on the table who is not vaccinated?

Acuña: I would not encourage someone who is not vaccinated to sit at the table. If the person has chosen not to be vaccinated, they should not be part of an interaction where they run the risk of transmitting the infection to others.

Guerrero: A vaccinated person is 80 times less likely to infect than an unvaccinated person. And conversely, a vaccinated person has an 80 percent less chance of being infected than a vaccine. But with that said, zero risk does not exist. And an unvaccinated person, if infected, may have a higher viral load, even if it is symptomatic, and that viral load could be expanding for a longer time. It is true that an unvaccinated person could be a source of transmission of the virus.

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Is it recommended that we do an antigen test -if they are available- before?

Acuña: There is a very big problem with antigens and it is that we are encoding in them the total answer: all or nothing, yes or no. Antigens have sensitivity problems, specificity problems, there are false negatives, there are false positives … The Interterritorial Council’s own alert presentation since July stated that it had serious limitations. That if there is a positive test it has to be ratified by a PCR and a negative test does not mean that there is no infection. We have this recent outbreak in Malaga of the Christmas dinner with 81 cases where everyone did it, all were negative and there are 81 infections. What I believe is that we are giving it a value that it does not have.

Guerrero: MMany times people say to me: “Yeah, but if we take the unsanitary test, don’t we create a false sense of security?” I say, worse man is not vaccinated, or do antigen tests and have a false sense of invulnerability.




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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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