You can just modify your pre-existing plans to make them safer!
With the Omicron variant of Covid-19 causing multiple surges of infections around the world, most of us are anxiously waiting and reconsidering our plans for Christmas and New Year’s eve. Is air travel going to be safe? Will it be safe to meet our parents during this time? Should we get tested? Should we make new New Year’s Eve party plans?
Leisure contacted expert epidemiologists on how the Omicron variant can and cannot change our near-term plans. Even though most of us were already planning to keep things low-key, some of us have planned modifications for grander yet safer gatherings in the light of this new variant. These modifications included a buffer between meeting our loved ones and air travel, getting PCR tests multiple times, getting and encouraging booster shots, and being fully vaccinated.
If you are thinking about how to make your holiday travel plans safer, consider everything in two stages - things you can do before you set out and things you do once you have arrived at your destination.
Let’s follow the latest travel advice and tips we received!
When planning safe travels during the holidays, the first latest travel advice we received was to focus on how safe travel plans can happen - flying or driving?
Experts, however, argue that it is as important, if not more important, to think about where others are coming from. It is also important to think about how much others are limiting their exposure to the Omicron variant in days that lead up to your travel plans.
This means that we must pay close attention to the current statistics of Covid-19 rates in and around the destination you are aiming to travel to and traveling from. It is true that the rates of Omicron variant spreading can make it pretty difficult to predict what places are the safest to travel. Data lags in testing can also aggravate the situation in some places around the world, it is heartbreaking but true ground reality.
In some places, like New York, we are witnessing more cases off late, including among those who are fully vaccinated. In comparison to other parts of the country, the numbers are slightly alarming. People coming in from other hot spots like South Africa are bringing with them a worse risk profile for everyone around them. Even though this can be reduced by limiting one’s exposure before traveling and getting regularly tested.
If the people you want to celebrate New Year’s Eve with are within driving distance of you, it is ideal. You can travel by car and celebrate with them and avoid that excess of exposure on your way back.
However, it is less optimal if you are planning your holidays with air travel. Experts state that you can probably fly with a relatively low risk if you are fully vaccinated, boosted, and keep your N95s above your noses, pretty much the entire time. Different people can have different levels of virus susceptibility and risk tolerance to Covid-19. You might be more comfortable with travel plans, especially when you are young and healthy, than if you are older in age and immunocompromised. No matter what your age is really, according to experts, your goal should be to reduce your risk and others’ risk because of you.
Another precautionary safety measure one can take to be safe is to get tested regularly to ensure you are not a threat to your loved ones. Shortly before a flight, take a PCR, but realistically speaking, it is hard because of the delayed results due to turn-around times. Rapid tests are a great alternative.
Just try to wear a mask, N-95, continuously, even when you are fully vaccinated, with a separate booster shot. It would be our first latest travel advice. Limit as much time as you can to spend maskless, eating, and drinking in public places. Remember to take Rapid Antigen Tests, like BinaxNow, QuickVue, etc., before leaving for the airport.
Some experts suggest flight modifications are a great way to travel safely. It is the latest travel advice by the experts and epidemiologists we talked to. Some suggest changing flight dates and timings to arrive a few days earlier to your destination. So, even if you are exposed while traveling, you still have plenty of days between your flight landing and seeing your relatives for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. This might sound inconvenient, but a few days of inconvenience is far better than making your life miserable in the future.
Adding a few days and regularly testing yourself on the Rapid Antigen kits will pick up any amount of mounting infection quickly.
If you have to fly, either consider flying early, at least 3-4 days early, and lay low for a while in an Airbnb. This latest travel advice is great, especially for older, immunocompromised, and vulnerable loved ones in our family.
Parents of little ones who are extremely young to be vaccinated against Coronavirus are finding it difficult to decide and plan their holidays while keeping everything reasonably safe at the same time for themselves and their children. For making travel plans with children this holiday season, experts recommend limiting your social interactions will help your children through days before gatherings and festivities. Keep your masks as well as your children’s masks on at all times, and regularly test them.
All epidemiologists agree that keeping your gatherings limited and small in size is best. Ten people or less is a good rule of thumb for any gathering. Ideally, everyone in the gathering should not only be fully vaccinated but also have received their booster shots. Early evidence suggests that this latest variant has significantly reduced protection afforded by double vaccinations, but booster shots help restore it.
People are of the opinion that in a certain family gathering, if people are fully vaccinated and have received booster shots, they would not be terribly concerned. People who are older and have health conditions are still put at an elevated risk of severe disease and concerns for their health.
Another latest travel advice and instructions epidemiologists are offering is to maximize ventilation as much as you can. Doing this in indoor spaces helps increase airflow. Using HEPA filters helps a lot to better the indoor air quality and flow. Alternatively, you can also opt for open windows if you are okay with the outside breeze.
At all times, try to avoid going to gatherings where you will find unvaccinated people. This risk is something you should not be willing to take.
If people are ready to take a rapid test before said gatherings and get a negative result, it does not necessarily mean that the person really has a negative test result. They should still avoid showing up to the party. The rapid test only reveals the person in question is probably not infectious at the moment. However, if we put them up for a swab test a day later, they could be carrying an infectious level of Coronavirus.
We can understand this point by picking up an example from a Christmas party in Norway. The majority of the people attending this party were fully-vaccinated. Everyone got tested and reported a negative result (PCR/Rapid Antigen) just two days earlier. Nevertheless, 80 out of 110 guests attending the party still ended up being diagnosed with Coronavirus, more likely with the omicron variant.
So, the latest travel advice, if you are traveling and going to attend a New Year’s Eve bash or a Christmas party, is to get tested and ensure others in your party are also tested before showing up. Rapid tests outside the party venue also work in most cases!
Try to keep extra rapid tests at home if you are the host/hostess of the party. Don’t hesitate to test if you notice anyone becoming symptomatic in the days following the gathering. Knowing the status of your disease early on, as soon as the symptoms start to develop, is extremely critical to getting the best clinical care.
For most people, no matter the latest travel advice regarding Covid-19 disease, the happiness and mental health benefits of meeting with their loved ones outweigh the risk of holiday gatherings.
For some epidemiologists we talked to at Leisure, it is a sad reality that they only got to see their loved ones only once since the pandemic began. This is truly saddening since it is like missing out on an entire section of one’s life. Because of this, they are now flying in to see each other during the New Year’s and Christmas parties. While others might not be as comfortable, they are still taking this calculated risk and spending the holidays after taking all necessary precautions.
While some are ready to take risks, others still recommend that lying low is the safest option. While the cases are skyrocketing, avoiding any and all travel plans, unless extremely necessary, is the key to a healthy and safer life! Some epidemiologists believe that people have been frustrated and worn out without traveling for the past two years and cannot plan safer ways to travel and gather. If, however, we make this time a little safer by staying in, our actions can amount to something bigger in the long run!
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