What the Omicron surge means for your holiday travel

On Monday, the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention launched information exhibiting that Omicron has become the most dominant strain of SARS-CoV-2 in the United States. Making up 73 p.c of circumstances reported within the final week, this new pressure is spreading much more quickly than the virulent Delta wave did. Whereas vaccines do provide safety—particularly towards extreme sickness and dying, and notably with the assistance of a 3rd “booster” shot—Omicron poses a newly heightened threat of an infection to many Individuals who had beforehand thought of themselves out of the woods. 

Safety issues are particularly pressing given the approaching vacation season. AAA estimates that some 109 million Americans will travel between December 23 and January 2. Right here’s what to think about as you weigh the dangers and rewards of vacation celebration. 

Even if you happen to’re totally vaccinated, you would possibly need to cancel your vacation gatherings to keep away from spreading COVID-19

First issues first: For those who’re not vaccinated, try to be doing all the things you possibly can to restrict contact with folks outdoors of your family proper now. Omicron is spreading shortly, and whereas reports of dropping hospitalizations in South Africa made some speculate that this variant can be milder than Delta, consultants warning that the US might see very totally different outcomes. At the least one US fatality due to Omicron has already been reported, and extra are certain to comply with. Stick to virtual events this year, and get vaccinated as soon as possible

For those who’re vaccinated, however haven’t but acquired a booster dose, you should proceed as if you’re only partially vaccinated—taking comparable precautions to those you took between your first two doses. Even with a booster, which lowers your probabilities of catching COVID and drastically reduces the chance of significant sickness, you should be ready for the chance that you’ll catch and unfold this new variant, together with to individuals who could have much less safety towards deadly sickness than you do. Probably the most accountable factor you are able to do, as Omicron continues to unfold, is to restrict your vacation festivities to your personal family. 

Consultants unsettled by the speed of Omicron’s unfold have begun to advise towards journey and huge events. Some international locations have already moved to limit the number of visitors a family can host. At a press conference on Monday, World Well being Group Director-Basic Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged would-be revelers to rethink their plans. 

“There might be little question that elevated social mixing over the vacation interval in lots of international locations will result in elevated circumstances, overwhelmed well being methods and extra deaths,” Ghebreyesus mentioned. “All of us are sick of this pandemic. All of us need to spend time with family and friends. All of us need to get again to regular… It’s higher to cancel now and have fun later, than to have fun now and grieve later.”

If staying put at dwelling isn’t on the desk, there are nonetheless steps you possibly can take to reduce the chance you pose to your self and others all through the vacation. 

Adapt your journey schedule and celebration plan to make them as protected as attainable 

Take into account your methodology of journey, the place you and different company will likely be touring from, and who you’re going to mingle with. Is anybody at this gathering notably susceptible to COVID-19, both as a result of they’re sick, aged, pregnant, or too younger to be vaccinated? Possibly this isn’t the perfect time to celebration with them indoors. However if you happen to should, think about tweaking plans as a lot as attainable to make the day safer. Attempt to drive if you happen to can; if you happen to’re flying or taking a practice, consider traveling early and isolating in personal lodging so that you might be certain you didn’t choose up COVID en route. 

Within the lead-up to your gathering, attempt to carry your interactions with the skin world again all the way down to what felt protected earlier than you had been vaccinated. Keep away from spending time indoors with folks outdoors your family, particularly for extended durations, and positively not with no masks. Doubling down on social distancing within the days main as much as your journey will decrease your threat of spreading COVID to the opposite vacationers round you.  

Use COVID-19 exams to reduce threat—however don’t depend on them fully

Many fully-vaccinated people have (fairly fairly) stopped testing with regularity. It’s time to buy a few at-home tests once more; if you happen to’re spending time indoors with people from outdoors your family within the subsequent few weeks, try to be testing beforehand—interval. 

However don’t take a damaging check as a no-holds-barred cross to smooch your unvaccinated nieces and nephews. Every COVID check you are taking captures only a single snapshot in time. Your physique could not have sufficient of the virus to set off a optimistic outcome within the morning after which be shedding loads of infectious particles by the afternoon. For those who’re coming from an Omicron hotspot, touring on a airplane, and haven’t been social distancing, taking a single at-home antigen test the day after you land tells you just about nothing. However if you happen to retest over the course of a number of days along with taking different precautions to mitigate your threat, you’ll a minimum of be capable of isolate and shield your loved ones if you happen to get an sudden optimistic. 

Ensure you speak to your loved ones or pals—whoever it’s you’re celebrating the vacations with—to agree on a recreation plan ought to anybody check optimistic. It could be harder and upsetting to alter plans and maintain folks aside if these selections must be made on the fly. 

Brush up in your fundamental COVID-19 security precautions 

No, you don’t have to start out bleaching your groceries once more—that’s not how COVID works. But it surely is time to recommit to the fundamental COVID-19 precautions that do assist. Wash your hands properly and often, particularly after you’ve been out of the home, whenever you’re hanging out with different folks, and earlier than you eat or cook dinner. Put on a masks everytime you’re interacting with folks outdoors of your personal family, and particularly whenever you’re indoors—together with on long plane or train rides. For full safety, you should wear a well-fitting N95 mask or one thing equal as a substitute of a fabric face overlaying. Transfer gatherings outdoors each time attainable (even when it’s important to bundle up or get a heater). Open home windows. Sit far aside. 

None of those precautions can assure you gained’t catch COVID-19, particularly as Omicron continues to proliferate. However taken collectively, they drastically scale back your threat of contracting the virus—and, maybe extra importantly, decrease the possibility that you just’ll assist it unfold to others. 

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