RIDGEFIELD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Families that missed out on Thanksgiving 2020 are looking forward to gathering again.

But with new COVID infections increasing nearly 54% in the last month, health officials are worried about igniting a winter wave of infections.

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As CBS2’s Christina Fan reports, after a a year of isolation and Zoom holiday dinners, Thanksgiving traditions are finally returning.

The New Jersey Turnpike is already crawling with people making the long drive to see family.

COVID VACCINE

“I’m spending time with my grandkids down there. They are 7 and 5. I’m very excited to see them,” said Joanne Studebaker, who is heading to Virginia.

“We are going to New Jersey. My son-in-law’s aunt and uncle’s house,” said Louise Smoller.

This time last year, new COVID cases were averaging about 170,000 a day. This week, the daily number is down to 92,000. But Dr. Anthony Fauci cautioned on CBS Mornings Monday, we are not in the clear.

“We have a lot of moving parts here. A, we have 60 million people who are eligible to be vaccinated among adults who have not been vaccinated. You have waning immunity. It’s a reality,” Fauci said.

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Watch: Dr. Dave Chokshi On Safe Thanksgiving Gatherings

Getting the shot remains the best layer of protection. But if your family is not fully vaccinated, health officials say you need to follow the same precautions they’ve been counseling the last 20 months, including wearing a mask and social distancing.

When arranging your festivities, think about your most vulnerable family members.

“Try to have some of it outdoors if you can or otherwise well ventilated. Make sure that people get tested before and after the gathering,” said NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

If your family is fully vaccinated, doctors says It’s critical everyone gets the booster when they qualify.

“When you get vaccinated, you get a high degree of protection. But after several months, the immunity wanes, even if you are infected and recover, the immunity wanes,” Fauci said.

The more cautious we are this holiday season, the more health officials say we’ll have to be grateful for next Thanksgiving.

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CBSNewYork Team