Travel, cut to decades-low levels by the COVID-19 pandemic, has moved back “close” to normal. According to the AAA, more that 109 million people will be traveling by road, rail, or air this holiday season, an increase of 27.7 million over 2020.
Despite our new mobility, the risks of travel have not gone away. This may be due partly to the dangers of time spent on planes and in airports. However, much of it also depends on what people do when they arrive at their destination. Holidays often mean large numbers of people packed into small places. Only 61% of Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, and recent increases in the numbers of cases have been partially attributed to infected people who are unvaccinated. (These are the states fighting COVID-19 most successfully.)
Two new threats make holiday travel riskier. One is the increasing number of breakthrough cases, in which people get infected despite being vaccinated. The other is the remarkably swift rise of the new Omicron variant, which appears to spread much faster than the Delta variant. Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the UK called the surge a “tidal wave.”
The United States may be about to face the same problem. CDC head Dr. Rochelle Walensky reports that 13% of new cases in New York and New Jersey are Omicron infections. Several universities have had such high infection rates that they have sent students home. (You might want to avoid travel to the states with the most cases of COVID-19.)
In the face of all this information, it becomes clear that holiday travel in the second half of December poses unusual risks. To compile a list of 20 rules for safer pandemic holiday travel, 24/7 Tempo reviewed articles and recommendations on COVID-19 safety from sources including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, AARP, and Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. Some of the advice is old, having long been part of efforts to slow the spread of diseases, but other tactics may be new to most people.
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