US faces Omicron flight risk
Americans are facing a second Christmas of upended holiday plans, with a surge in covid-19 infections fuelled by the now-dominant Omicron variant forcing some people to cancel their travel and fret about whether it is safe to visit loved ones.
Carmen Rivera and her fiancee Jasmine Maisonet made the painful decision to cancel their flights to visit family in Florida and Puerto Rico, Reuters report, after Maisonet was exposed to an infected co-worker and tested positive for covid-19. Rivera, a newly elected city council member in Renton, Washington, hasn’t 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 boosted against the disease, like Maisonet, Rivera said it stung to spend another holiday season in isolation.
‘We thought we were safe, we were washing our hands, sanitizing, vaccinated, masking – we believe in science,’ Rivera said.
The swift rise in infections from Omicron, first detected last month and now accounting for 73% of U.S. cases, has added fresh confusion and concern around holiday travel. Many Americans flocked to covid-19 testing sites or scrambled to get at-home tests this week to ensure a negative test result before heading to see relatives. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that vaccinated people should follow precautions but feel comfortable celebrating the holidays with family and travelling as planned, despite the Omicron wave.
Travel companies are betting vaccinated Americans will heed Biden’s advice and have retained a rosy outlook on this year’s holiday season, riding the momentum from a rebound in U.S. travel over Thanksgiving.
The American Automobile Association estimates that 109 million Americans will hit the road, board a plane or otherwise travel more than 50 miles between 23 December and 2 January, marking a 34% increase from 2020, according to a statement from AAA.
However, AAA spokesperson Ellen Edmonds said that estimate was compiled before 14 December, and the spike in cases that has occurred since might prompt cancellations.