Saturday, April 1, 2023

Did you reach Grandma’s house or not? Omicron disrupts vacation plans | AP News

Dave Fravel and his wife invited several relatives to their Cape Cod home for Christmas with food, gifts and a stay together during the pandemic’s lonely days. They were also looking forward to a New York City vacation sightseeing tour.

But the coronavirus spoiled all those plans. With cases rising in his state of Massachusetts and the super-infectious Omron variant racing around the worldThey feared spreading the virus even before Frawell’s 18-year-old son, Colin, came down with COVID-19.

Rich England has been there before. In the summer, when the Delta version was growing up, he declined for the Christmas break in London and Scotland with his parents and sister’s family. But he, his wife and 2-year-old daughter are planning a four-day trip from their home in Alexandria, Virginia to Miami, on December 31.

“The safest thing to do would be ‘OMG, we have to cancel,'” he said. “But there are a lot of letters in the Greek alphabet—there are going to be different types after Omicron. You can’t answer every single variant by just closing.”

second year in a rowEver-morphing viruses are fun-loving people with a difficult choice: canceling holiday gatherings and trips or figuring out ways to get ahead as safely as possible. Many health experts are begging people not to let down their guard.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tightened it up this week when he said “a canceled event is better than a canceled life.”

But the fatigue of the pandemic is real. And while travel restrictions in some places have forced cancellations, many governments have been reluctant to order more lockdowns, making decisions about who to see and where to go in the hands of individuals.

Complicated matter is the mystery that surrounds Omicron. Scientists now know that it spreads faster – perhaps three times faster than the delta version. It also appears to be better at avoiding vaccines, although boosters do improve protection, particularly against hospitalization and death. But an important question is, does Omicron cause less severe disease than Delta? Some research suggests that this happens, but the studies are preliminary.

Even if it is minor, Omicron can still take a toll on hospitals due to the sheer number of infections. This makes it difficult to gauge how far the dial can be turned during the festive season.

In the United States, infections average about 149,000 a day, and officials announced this week that O’Micron dethroned Delta as the dominant version. In Britain, where an omicron-fuelled rise is seen as a harbinger for many other European countries, daily cases topped 100,000 for the first time on Tuesday. Cases of infection are also increasing in France, Spain and Italy.

Fravelle and his wife, Sue Malomo, who are both software developers and have six children between them, are concerned about O’Micron and Delta. Fravelle, 51, said he canceled his trip to New York City because “the idea of ​​being in those big crowds just didn’t make sense.”

Nor were there many people at his house. Typically, 20 to 25 people filter through between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But this year only children will come and not everyone will come together.

“Right now, the plan is for everyone to be in small circles or to FaceTime,” Frawell said.

England, an energy lobbyist, also weighed their options – and decided a visit could be made. He and his wife both get booster shots, which reassures them, though their daughter is too young for the vaccine.

“We chose Miami partly because we would be able to dine out exclusively and then spend time at the beach and pool,” he said. But he’s still hedging: As of Tuesday evening, they were “going 80/20.”

Colombian native Juliette Aranguren has begun her journey. The 18-year-old had stayed in Madrid on Wednesday on her way to Dubai, where she plans to spend time with relatives. She spent thousands of dollars on flights and hotels — booked nine months in advance — so she said she didn’t consider canceling.

But she still faces the unknown. His group plans to go shopping, dinner, and the World Expo in Dubai, Aranguren said, so “it wouldn’t be fun at all if there were more restrictions.”

It is still unclear which path most people will take. Europe’s biggest airline Ryanair has cut its forecast for the number of passengers for December from 11 million to 10 million, chief executive Michael O’Leary told the Guardian last week.

Many airlines in the United States are quite excited.

For the period from December 17 to January 3, Delta Air Lines says it expects to fly about 8 million people, more than double last year’s holiday season, but 9.3 million passengers in 2019. is less in comparison. There are approximately 5,000 daily flights between American Airlines. December 19 and January 1, up from 3,700 at the same time last year. But there were more – 6,300 – during the 2019 holidays.

Both airlines noted that international travel was most affected by the Omicron variant.

This is true for Alex Wong. The freelance journalist and radio producer in Toronto canceled a flight to New York in mid-December, which would be her first visit since the pandemic began. He was worried about being stuck in quarantine upon his return, which would leave him unable to see his family during the holidays.

“Looks like I made the right decision and was feeling better day by day,” he said in a text message. He’s getting a booster shot on Wednesday and is seeing his parents, who live nearby, this weekend.

Many experts recommend such a balanced calculation.

Matthew Binnicker, director of clinical virology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said people should consider taking a rapid test for COVID-19 on the day of a gathering, or better yet, a more accurate PCR test 24 hours before. But experts caution that the tests are not a firewall against infection.

“It’s a good idea to reconsider big travel plans or get together in large groups,” he said.

Small groups of less than 10 people can gather safely if they ensure everyone is vaccinated, wear masks indoors and encourage those vulnerable to serious illness to stay indoors. Other experts suggest opening windows to improve ventilation and to let outside in as much as possible.

“For me, the holidays are a time to think about others. This is often expressed through gift giving, charitable donations or volunteering,” Binnikar said. “But this year, there is another great way to think about others, and that is to take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and influenza.”


Associated Press writers May Anderson in Nashville, Tennessee, Aritz Parra in Madrid, Emily Schultheis in Vienna and Calvin Chan in London contributed to this report.


The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. Associated Press is solely responsible for all content.


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