SARS-CoV-2 Omicron Variant Impact on Holiday Travel
While increasing vaccination rates have improved travelers’ confidence, the majority of Americans are staying home this Holiday season due to the new Covid-19 Omicron.
People Had Second Thoughts About Traveling After Omicron Variant Arises; COVID-19 Surge Expected on January
Thanksgiving was expected to attract about 55 million people in the United States to travel, but Christmas may be a different story.
According to a November survey commissioned by the American Hotel & Lodging Association, 33% of individuals are likely to travel for Christmas — up from 24% in 2020.
66% of these travelers intend to stay with their family or friends, while only 23% intend to stay in a hotel.
Plans may change, though, as the country’s COVID-19 situation worsens due to the emergence of the recent omicron variant.
According to research conducted by a travel website, 87% of people are continuing with their holiday vacation plans despite the new variant, whereas 10% postponed or canceled their plans and 3% changed their destination.
The US is currently averaging more than 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on a seven-day moving average, and experts predict that these numbers will likely climb as the new omicron variant spreads.
There will undoubtedly be an increase in holiday travel-related cases this year; there was already a spike following Thanksgiving. The primary obstacle is the rapid spread of the COVID-19 delta variant in many parts of the United States at the moment. Because Omicron is more contagious, it will contribute to a January surge. However, according to Dr. Eric Schneider, MD Senior Vice President for Policy and Research at The Commonwealth Fund, no one can anticipate the magnitude.
The newly identified variant, which was identified in southern Africa, appears to be significantly more transmissible than previous variants. Omicron has been classified a “Variant of Concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO) due to its number of mutations and some of which are concerning.
Numerous countries, including the United States, swiftly banned travel from southern Africa and imposed new travel restrictions, but the variant continued to spread throughout the world.
As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it has been detected in more than 20 states across the United States.
Staying Home Will Not Guarantee Safety
In what looks to be an endless and ever-changing pandemic, it’s possible that people are beginning to question when it is safe to travel normally and visit friends and relatives without fear.
Indoor family gatherings face the greatest risk of infection since family members are less cautious, and activities such as eating, drinking, and chatting indoors can create ideal conditions for virus transmission, according to Dr. Schneider.
The WHO has advised at-risk groups from traveling to places with community transmission, including individuals who are not completely vaccinated and are at an elevated risk of acquiring severe disease or dying, such as those aged 60 years or older.
Vaccination will help reduce the number of infections and, more importantly, their severity. Nevertheless, it appears as though the omicron variant reduces the protection provided by vaccines against infection. People must vaccinate, boost, avoid densely populated areas with poor ventilation, and wear masks. Individuals are advised to limit their travel this winter, Dr. Jorge Salina, a Stanford University professor of medicine.
Vaccine and Booster Shots
71.5% of the population in the United States has received at least a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 60.5% are completely vaccinated. According to the CDC, only 24.9% of people have received booster shots so far.
Vaccines have remained effective against other variants, such as delta, in preventing serious illnesses, hospitalizations, and death. The CDC noted that the recent emergence of Omicron highlights the importance of vaccination and boosters.
Schneider advised that anyone who is eligible for vaccinations and booster shots should do so prior to holiday travel.
If a group of more than a few people gathered or someone with a compromised immune system, Schneider said, rapid testing the same day can help lower the risk. Individuals who have a positive rapid test must avoid social gatherings for at least ten days. Wearing masks, gathering outdoors, opening windows, and increasing air circulation using fans are all helpful ways to lower the risk.
If a person is considering traveling for the holidays, the CDC’s travel page can assist them in making the best decision for them and their family. However, the CDC continues to advise travelers to delay travel until they are completely vaccinated.
Editor’s Note on How Has Omicron Affected Holiday Travel:
This article is written to inform you of the impact of the COVID-19 Omicron variant over the Holiday season travel and predictions regarding a surge following the trips and the importance of fully getting vaccinated and having booster shots. We also suggest you read the United Airlines Useless Travel Guard Lawsuit.