The United States is entering its second winter holiday season during the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 109 million people expected to travel more than 50 miles from home. The conditions for dealing with COVID-19 are better this year compared with 2020, when no COVID-19 vaccinations had yet been authorized for use.
The Omicron variant is spreading rapidly throughout the country. Fortunately, early data indicates a booster shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is largely effective at protecting against the variant.
Still, 39% of Americans are not yet fully vaccinated and just over 27% have received a booster shot. With high community transmission in nearly 80% of U.S. counties and the looming threat of the new, highly transmissible Omicron variant, experts are urging holiday travelers to be extra cautious.
“A year ago, we were really very vulnerable as a nation, because we had no direct control over the virus. Our control today is substantially better, even though it’s not perfect,” said Robert Amler, MD, dean of the School of Health Sciences and Practice at New York Medical College. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasizes that it’s best to delay travel until you’re fully vaccinated. Additional measures, like getting tested for COVID-19 before and after gathering with people from other households, can help keep you and your loved ones safe.
“It just requires conversations with your friends and family and considerations around how you want to protect the most vulnerable people who might be in your group,” Johnson said.