Omicron is Here. How to Protect Yourself From Omicron Variant While Traveling

Going home for the holidays is getting more complicated, due to the spread of Omicron across the US.

If you’re planning to travel for the winter holidays, whether domestically or internationally, you’re probably wondering: Should I cancel my Trip?

Not necessarily just yet, but do be very thoughtful about them. Anyone who’s thinking of traveling should pause and consider both your own risk, as well as certain other practical issues about your destination.”

Scientists say it’s still too soon to know whether the omicron variant causes more or less severe disease, though early evidence does suggest it’s better at evading the immune system than previous strains. 

Whether you’re driving or setting sail internationally, keep these tips in mind as you’re traveling this holiday season. 

1. Know the COVID-19 Rate Where You Live

You may be familiar with how the new COVID-19 variant spread looks like in your community, but every city is different, and some may be experiencing an outbreak. Before you head over to your destination, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websitefor a look at U.S. counties, and World Health Organization’s website to see how many new COVID-19 cases have been reported in the last 24 hours.

2. Get vaccinated if eligible

Did we just mention vaccinations? Yes. Are they worth mentioning again? Absolutely. 

Getting your vaccine and booster shots is the single best way to protect against omicron. The variant contains mutations that could potentially enable it to evade the protection you got from your first round of Covid vaccinations. But the booster shot increases your antibodies levels enough to provide some protection against all Covid variants, including omicron.

If you aren’t vaccinated, Weil agrees with CDC recommendations that you should not travel. If your trip can’t be delayed, you should take a viral test one to three days before your flight, take a viral test three to five days after you land and self-quarantine for seven days after you land, per CDC guidelines.  

Whether or not you are vaccinated, you should wear a mask, maintain distance and wash your hands often (more on these in a minute).  Check where to get your vaccine here.

3. Schedule a COVID-19 test on time

With more people making plans to travel, COVID-19 test appointment slots might be filling up faster than usual. If you’re traveling to a foreign country, you may be required to show a negative COVID-19 test one to three days before your trip, regardless of vaccination status.

4. If you are driving ,don’t bring too many people along for the ride

When it comes to passengers, the CDC recommends limiting the number of people in your vehicle if possible. And since you all can’t be six feet apart, it doesn’t hurt to wear masks in the car, especially if you’re traveling with someone who is at high risk for COVID-19. Dr. Khabbaza also recommends wearing a mask in the car especially if you’re traveling with someone who is outside of your immediate circle. 

Before stopping for gas or food, designate a runner for travel-related tasks. Have one or two people who aren’t at high risk go in to grab snacks or buy gas if you don’t want to pay at the pump. Just make sure your designated runners mask up and clean their hands thoroughly before getting back in the car. And as you’re filling up, avoid scrolling through your phone while pumping gas to minimize the risk of any contamination.

As you’re cruising to your destination, keep the windows open if possible to let fresh air in and boost ventilation. If you’re headed to a warmer area and air conditioning is a must, set the air ventilation or air conditioning to non-recirculation mode.

5. Keep in mind basic hygiene

Airports, airplanes and rest stops are full of people, which also means they’re full of germs. Keep the hygiene tips reiterated throughout the pandemic in mind wherever you go: wash your hands with soap and water, cover your nose and mouth if you cough or sneeze and have some wipes on you to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces.

6. Book Early Flights

Choose early morning flights, which are typically less crowded. Avoid taking the last flight of the day whenever possible, especially during the winter months to reduce the chances of missed connections or delays due to cancellations or weather. Opt for carry-on luggage on your next trip. You’ll skip lines when you arrive at the airport and won’t have to wait for luggage when you land.7

Yes, it can be annoying to wear a mask throughout your flight and constantly be reminded to keep it over your nose, but flight attendants are doing their job and following federal guidelines. How do you think they feel dealing with unruly passengers? When your flight attendant hands you a snack or drink, a thank you will go a long way.


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