As we’re about to enter peak holiday season, we’re also dealing with the convergence of three respiratory illnesses circulating in the community: flu, COVID-19, and RSV. All of these viruses have the potential to spread when you come in contact with infected people, a big concern ahead of holiday party season.

The Health Department would like to share some tips to help you and your loved ones stay healthy and safe from serious health hazards, especially young children and seniors. The following recommendations can help us all enjoy the holidays and avoid getting sick, particularly the most vulnerable. As you can see from the graph below, flu cases are much higher than we typically see, especially for this early in flu season. Hospitals and children’s hospitals in our area are feeling the strain, with children waiting for many hours to be seen. The more we can do to decrease the spread of these respiratory viruses, the better for everyone in Philadelphia.

Graph of flu case in Philadelphia, showing a sharp uncharacteristic rise in the number of cases in 2022

Flu shot and Omicron booster

Get your flu shot as soon as possible. This year’s flu shot is a good match with the circulating virus. Studies show when the flu shot and the virus match, it lowers the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the population. With flu infections skyrocketing in the city, it’s a great time to go get your shot. Learn where you can get your flu shot.

Speaking of well-matched, the updated Omicron booster was designed to target the Omicron variant and early data shows the vaccine is effective against variants that are circulating right now. It’s not too late to get boosted for the holiday. Timing is everything and there’s never been a better time to get the COVID Omicron booster.

Mask up in crowded indoor places

You might not be masking as much as you used to, but if you will be indoors in a public place, wearing a mask can really help you to avoid the Big 3 circulating viruses this winter. And if you know you’ll be spending some time with someone who could get very sick from COVID-19, flu, or RSV, like an elderly relative, an immunocompromised person, or a child, it’s even more important to mask up when you’ll be in crowds. Yes, it’s an extra step to take, but it’s worth it to keep people you love out of the hospital. For a review of masking guidance, visit Choose Your Best Mask (PDF).

Symptoms mean you should stay home

Stay home if you are sick, even if it’s just a cough or congestion, even if your test is negative or you didn’t test for COVID-19. Symptoms mean you should stay home. Read the guidance you need for isolation, exposures, and testing (PDF) if you or a family member gets COVID.

Test for your guests!

Take an at-home test for COVID-19 before attending any gatherings or parties, especially if you’ll be seeing older folks, or people who are at higher risk. If you have enough tests, test twice with 48 hours in between. For instance, if you are gathering on Christmas day, test on the 23rd and on the 25th. If you are negative both times, you can feel assured that you won’t get someone very sick. If you’ll be going to multiple gatherings, try to celebrate with seniors first before larger get-togethers. For more tips, visit Winter Holidays 2022-23 — Test for Your Guests! (PDF)

If you don’t have a stockpile of tests yet, buy some now! There will be no cost to you after reimbursement if you have commercial insurance or Medicaid/Medicare. Call or visit your insurance company’s website for details. Get information on how to get FREE at-home Test Kits at PDPH Resource Hubs. The federal government has also recently announced that you can order four free COVID-19 tests by completing the form on

The bottom line is, by employing some of the same safety measures we’ve been practicing for the past 2+ years, we can keep our loved ones safer. Philadelphia, you know what to do.

More questions about guidance, contact the Health Department’s call center at (215) 685-5488 or