By Caroline Vandergriff

(CBSDFW.COM) – As COVID-19 cases surge in North Texas and across the United States, the CDC says the safest way to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s is at home with only the people that live with you.

However, not all holiday activities have the same level of risk. A new tool, funded in part by the National Institutions of Health, can help people make decisions about their plans this year.

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“Instead of telling people a yes or no answer to an activity, we just thought if we help them think through it – what the elements of that decision are – they will come up with wiser decisions for themselves,” said Dr. Vik Kheterpal, a physician investigator with CareEvolution, which created the SAFER-COVID tool.

With the website, you can get a quick risk assessment for the type of activity you’re considering, from holiday shopping to eating at a restaurant or traveling.

You can also look at how bad the spread is in your area and whether you’re likely to get severely ill if you get the virus.

“If you look at the tool, it may be okay in Dallas-Fort Worth area, depending on the weather, to gather for Christmas – as long as we are outside, we are more than 6 feet apart, we are wearing masks when we are not eating,” Dr. Kheterpal said.

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Hundreds of thousands of people have already used SAFER-COVID, with a spike around Thanksgiving.

“Whether this tool or other sources, our hope, and I think the need in the nation, is that people do conduct themselves in a thoughtful way,” said Dr. Kheterpal.

Planning ahead can help protect yourself and your family this holiday season.

“This is two weeks today from Christmas, so for those who want to do those extended family get-togethers and are able to, now is the time for everyone who’s going, to isolate,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.

Experts say if you really want to spend quality time with people who don’t live with you already, a two-week quarantine before the holiday is the best way to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19.

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Caroline Vandergriff