Americans face a second Christmas of disrupted vacation plans, with an increase in COVID-19 infections fueled by the now-dominant Omicron variant forcing some people to cancel their trip and question whether it is safe to visit their relatives.
Carmen Rivera and her fiancee Jasmine Maisonet made the painful decision to cancel their flights to visit family in Florida and Puerto Rico after Maisonet was exposed to an infected colleague and tested positive for COVID-19.
Rivera, a newly elected city council member in Renton, Wash., Has not seen her family in Puerto Rico since the start of the pandemic. With the latest wave of COVID-19 infecting even those who have been vaccinated and fortified against the disease, like Maisonet, Rivera said it stung to spend another vacation season in isolation.
We thought we were safe, we wash our hands, we disinfect, we vaccinate, we mask that we believe in science, Rivera said.
The rapid rise in infections from Omicron, first detected last month and now accounting for 73% of cases in the United States, has added new confusion and concern over vacation travel.
Many Americans have flocked to COVID-19 testing sites or rushed to get home tests this week to ensure a negative test result before heading to relatives.
Americans in many cities have faced long lines to try to get a coronavirus test official for vacation travel. In large parts of New York City, people wait more than an hour for a test, and local media have reported similar wait times in Washington, DC and other major cities.
But Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told NBC on Wednesday that the virus was less of a threat this year than last year due to advances in vaccines and scientific understanding. virus.
We are in a very different place than we were a year ago. We have vaccines, we have boosters, and we have all the science that shows that prevention, interventions like indoor masking work to lessen the spread of this virus, she said.
US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that those vaccinated should take precautions but feel comfortable celebrating family vacations and traveling as planned, despite the Omicron wave.
Long Island insurance broker Lori Eves took the risk into account and refused to let Omicron ruin her trip to Paris with her retired mother this month. The two women had the Palace of Versailles almost on their own on Friday.
I’m not really worried, said Eves, 42, as she visited the palace outside the French capital. We were both vaccinated and boosted and, you know, we felt safe.
Travel companies are betting Americans vaccinated will stick to their plans and have kept an optimistic outlook for this year’s holiday season, building on the momentum of a rebound in travel to the United States during Thanksgiving.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that 109 million Americans will hit the road, board a plane or travel more than 80 km between December 23 and January 2, marking a 34% increase from 2020, according to a statement from AAA.
However, AAA spokeswoman Ellen Edmonds said the estimate was compiled by December 14 and the spike in cases that has since occurred could lead to cancellations.
The Transportation Security Administration screened more than two million passengers at airports across the country every day from December 16 to 20, roughly double the number of people who passed through airports on those dates in 2020 and almost as many as 2019.
The CEO of Delta Air Lines Incs on Tuesday asked the CDC to reduce quarantine guidelines for fully vaccinated people who experience breakthrough COVID-19 infections, citing the effect on the company’s workforce. The CDC currently recommends 10 days of isolation after a positive COVID test.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday that the New Years celebration in Times Square, which draws hundreds of thousands of people from around the world, was still underway, although city officials were working with health experts to maximize safety. We like to move this event forward as long as we can safely do so, he told MSNBC. We don’t want to live in defeat or surrender to COVID. We really have to fight to find our way.
To go or not to go
A few days before Christmas on Saturday, some Americans are waiting until the last minute to decide whether to go ahead with their plans.
Morgan Johnson, a 28-year-old teacher in Washington, DC, spends the week with her parents in Chicago. They are taking several COVID tests at home to determine if they will drive to see Johnson’s grandparents outside of Minneapolis on Christmas Day.
Her grandparents are 80, are vaccinated and want family to visit them, Johnson said. But she and her parents, all vaccinated, fear unknowingly spreading the variant to the elderly couple.
You will never forgive yourself for making your grandparents sick, Johnson said.
She is also worried about how she would return to Washington for the start of the school year in January if she was forced to self-isolate on the spot.
This makes you think, is it worth going? she said.
Elizabeth Crutchley’s family decided it was too risky to travel. The 51-year-old expected his daughter and son-in-law to visit him in Maryland from Hawaii, but their fear of the infection keeps everyone at home.
Instead of the usual Christmas party at a family home, surrounded by their kids and family, Crutchleysholidaygettogether will now take place on Zoom.
As long as we can see each other and laugh, we’ll be fine, she said.
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