The appearance of the Covid-19 Omicron variant has many people concerned during the holidays. Some are wondering what Omicron safety precautions need to be taken to ensure that Christmas and New Year’s celebrations can continue.
Some experts are saying that the Omicron variant will cause a new wave of Covid-19 infections in 2022. Nearly 73% of current U.S. cases are because of Omicron.
How worried should you be? This is what the experts have to say.
Is it Dangerous to Travel Abroad Right Now?
With the Omicron variant, many people are questioning their holiday travel plans. Some are worried that gathering with family could cause family-wide infections. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, vaccinated individuals who want to visit family should be able to travel.
On an episode of NBC’s Meet the Press, he said, “If you’re vaccinated and you’re boosted, and you take care when you go into congregate settings like airports to make sure you continually wear your mask, you should be OK.”
The Chief Medical Advisor for the President previously called the Omicron variant “extraordinary” for how fast it’s spread, and he urged Americans to get both vaccine doses and a booster shot when they are eligible, and to always wear a mask.
Other experts have echoed Fauci’s precautions and said that even if flights allow passengers to take off masks to eat and drink, those who want to stay safe should keep them on. Katelyn K. Jetelina, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center said, “Masks protect the wearer, too. Not just the people around them.”
Is it Safe to Have a Big Dinner with Your Family?
Experts are saying that a big family gathering is possible this year if precautions are taken. Getting vaccinated and a booster shot are step one. Other experts recommend testing before any big gatherings. Rapid tests have become more accessible since 2020 and taking a Covid-19 test could remove some of the worry before your holiday gathering.
To add extra safety for your holiday celebrations, many are recommending that dinners take place outside, or at least in places where there is a lot of ventilation. Opening windows and doors allow air to flow if family gatherings can’t take place outside. Air purifiers can also help with ventilation.
While people can take Omicron safety precautions, many experts caution that it is important to judge your individual situation and decide whether a family gathering is best for you. Dr. Eleanor Murray, an epidemiologist at the Boston University School of Public Health, decided to skip her family gathering this year because her family has a lot of small children that are not eligible for the vaccine.
Dr. Jetelina said, “The challenge is that everyone has their own risk tolerance level. Someone that doesn’t want to get infected at all? Then no, they shouldn’t hop on a plane.” She added that taking the right precautions can help reduce the risk and increase your Omicron safety.
Is it OK to Go to a New Year’s Party?
With the Omicron surge, many news networks are reconsidering their New Year’s celebrations. Fox News canceled its New Year’s Eve Toast & Roast 2022 amid the rising Omicron cases in New York City.
Some experts in Europe are recommending that people celebrate the New Year in small groups. And many countries such as Germany have started to limit the size of New Year’s Eve parties. Paris even cancelled their fireworks.
While masking, vaccinations and the booster shot can increase your protection during your New Year’s party, experts are suggesting limiting the size of your gathering especially if guests are at a higher risk.
Dr. Mark Fox, from the St. Joseph County Health Department said, “So, if you’re going to spend all day at grandma’s house, then fewer people for a longer period of time is certainly safer. But particularly if anyone in that group is at high risk based on age or medical problems the other piece of advice is there’s benefit to getting a rapid test before you gather with family again.”
He also recommends taking a rapid test three to five days after any New Year’s celebration.
How Often Should I Get Tested for Covid-19?
Experts are recommending individuals take rapid tests before and after a gathering to ensure safety during the holidays. Taking multiple tests within a short time frame limits the spread of potential infection and eliminates the risk of a false negative.
If you test positive, experts say that you should not spend time with family. Also look into getting a PCR test done to rule out a false positive.
Matthew Frieman, a Coronavirus researcher and professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said that a rapid test should be performed the day before a holiday gathering. This gives time for a PCR test to be done to confirm a positive result.