(WKBN) — Trying to navigate through the pandemic has been a confusing time for the last two years, but local health experts help break down exactly what people need to know as Christmas approaches.

“Don’t be afraid to ask because like you said things have changed through the pandemic,” said Laura Fauss with the Columbiana County Health District.

As we begin gathering for the holidays, health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said the best thing to do is to test first.

“A lot of people coming to get tests kits because we are recommending to test before you get together but at this point, with the rising case loads, it may be best to maybe not have those large gatherings,” Fauss said.

However, Youngstown City Health Commissioner Erin Bishop says we can gather, but only if we do it safely.

“We’ve had a lot of calls the last couple days, people just really worried like, ‘You think we should cancel our plans?’ And what I tell them is, you know, if you’re doing the precautions, it isn’t like it was last year,” Bishop said.

When it comes to the at home tests, you need to make sure you are reporting results if you are positive. There are two different types of tests — proctored and non-proctored.

“The proctored at-home tests, those results would be reported to the health department so you shouldn’t have to call to report your test. You always can but you shouldn’t have to,” Fauss said.

However with the non-proctored tests, that is where reporting is very important.

“Let us know at the health department, let your people know that you’ve been around, like, ‘Hey, I’ve tested positive,'” Bishop said.

Bishop says that communication with both the local health departments and people you are in contact with are important. As for the holiday season – it is up to you and your family what you deem as a safe way to celebrate.