COVID-19 resources and tips for the holiday and flu seasons


According to Dr. John Paschen, the best way to protect yourself and your family members this holiday season is to get the COVID-19 vaccination and booster shot.

Claire Hoppe

While the holiday season can bring quality time spent with loved ones and a break from school or work, according to Story County medical professionals, it remains unknown whether it may also bring an increased amount of influenza and COVID-19 cases.

Dr. John Paschen, chairman of the Story County Board of Health, said that while he remains unsure as to what the holiday and flu season will bring, the best way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 is to be vaccinated and to receive the booster shot if eligible. He also recommended that families avoid gatherings of 15 or more people and wear masks while inside and in public.

Steve Sullivan, the director of marketing and community relations at Mary Greeley Medical Center, echoed Paschen’s words.

“Get vaccinated and get the booster,” Sullivan said. “Being fully vaccinated is your best protection against COVID-19.”

Sullivan also mentioned the importance of getting the influenza vaccine.

“COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon,” Sullivan said. “The approach of flu season is all the more reason to get vaccinated for COVID and the flu.”

According to Paschen, while he is hoping for a mild season, it is still unknown what Story County can expect from the flu season regarding increases in influenza and COVID-19 cases.

“Last year influenza was unheard of,” Paschen said. “However, everyone was masking and staying away from other people. Not so much this year. We have already seen, with our few cases, more than we have seen all last year.”

Sullivan said that despite what the flu and holiday seasons have in store, he is confident that Mary Greeley Medical Center will be prepared to treat all patients. According to him, while it is a challenge, the Mary Greeley team works to always stay prepared.

“After almost two years of dealing with the impact of the pandemic, we are very prepared to respond to the fluctuating waves of COVID-19 patients,” Sullivan said. “We have specified units, including our ICU, that are experienced in providing outstanding care to these patients.”

Sullivan also mentioned that if there is another surge of COVID-19 cases, whether that includes Delta and Omicron variant cases, Mary Greeley Medical Center is certain they will have enough resources to treat all cases.

“We’ve become very adept at planning for potential surges,” Sullivan said. “We constantly monitor supplies, both in terms of inventory and availability. We have contingency plans should the number of patients exceed our capacity.”

Paschen said he is convinced that Story County will be able to handle any curve ball the season and COVID-19 throws their way.

“I have been very proud of Story County’s response to COVID,” Paschen said. “We have had a phenomenal response from our Public Health Department, our Board of Supervisors, as well as our medical establishment.”

He also said while the Story County medical system has been busy with a steady seven to nine percent of positive COVID-19 tests, they have been able to handle everything well. But, according to Paschen, this may be subject to change considering the Omicron variant.

“We are not sure at this time if the Omicron variant will cause more disease and thus more hospitalizations, than the Delt[a] variant,” Paschen said. “We do feel it will be more contagious and while getting vaccinated will help, we still do not have an indication how much it will help.”