How safe is it to attend holiday religious services as the Omicron variant spreads? Experts weigh in

People attend Easter Sunday Mass while adhering to social distancing guidelines at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, on April 4.

This story has been updated to reflect the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest guidance as of December 21.

(CNN)If you're wondering whether you should go to in-person religious services during the winter holidays this year, CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen recommends thinking about it like your finances.

Just like a financial budget helps you figure out what your spending limits are, a "coronavirus budget" can help you figure out where your boundaries are in terms of potentially risky activities -- including religious services, she said. With the spread of the "very contagious Omicron variant" and high Covid-19 case numbers in general, Wen added, "we need to take additional precautions."
"If going to church is the most important thing and, unfortunately, people at church are of unknown vaccination status (and) all close together without masks, somebody who is unvaccinated could still decide 'That is the most important thing to me, so I'm going to continue doing this one activity,'" said Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. "'But I'm not also going to go to an indoor restaurant.'"
    For many places of worship, it's business as usual. But some churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship have been offering virtual or outdoor services, and will be doing so for holiday events. Other groups still holding in-person services indoors, such as the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, have implemented mask mandates and require churches to designate areas for those who want to physically distance. The Archdiocese of San Antonio is encouraging unvaccinated people to wear masks to services and asking that sick people stay home until they haven't had symptoms for at least 24 hours.
      "Pastors have the authority to grant dispensations from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass on an individual basis for those who need such consideration," according to an Archdiocese spokesperson.
      This weekend, The Temple in Atlanta is hosting only virtual Shabbat worship services and Torah studies.
      "Making sure that we are fully vaccinated and receive a booster if eligible to receive that at this time" is "the only thing that we have in our arsenal to protect ourselves," said Dr. Ada Stewart, a family physician with Cooperative Health in Columbia, South Carolina, and the board chair of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
        Being fully vaccinated in time for December holiday services isn't possible given vaccine dosing schedules (people are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after thei