In the midst of the pandemic’s loneliness, Dave Fravel and his wife invited several relatives to their Cape Cod home for Christmas dinner and gifts, as well as the togetherness they’d missed out on during the past year. They were also looking forward to a sightseeing trip to New York City during the holidays.
However, the coronavirus put a stop to all of those plans. They were concerned about spreading the virus even before Fravel’s 18-year-old son, Colin, was diagnosed with COVID-19. With cases on the rise in their home state of Massachusetts and the super-infectious omicron variant racing around the world, they were concerned about spreading the virus.
Rich England has been to this location before. He turned down a Christmas vacation with his parents and sister’s family to London and Scotland during the summer, when the delta variant was on the rise. The three-member family, which includes his wife and their 2-year-old daughter, will continue with their plans to travel to Miami on December 31 for a four-day trip that will begin at their home in Alexandria, Virginia.
According to him, the safest course of action would be to say “OMG, we have to cancel.” “But there are a lot of letters in the Greek alphabet, so there will be variants after omicron,” says the author. “You can’t just shut down in response to every single variant,” says the author.
For the second year in a row, the ever-evolving virus forces would-be revelers to make a difficult decision: cancel holiday gatherings and trips, or figure out how to proceed as safely as possible despite the virus’s constant evolution. Many health professionals are pleading with people not to let their guard down.
WHA Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this week that “a cancelled event is better than a life canceled,” which is an ominous statement considering the nature of his organization.
However, pandemic fatigue is a real phenomenon. In addition, while certain travel restrictions in some places have resulted in cancellations, many governments have been reluctant to order additional lockdowns, leaving decisions about who to see and where to go increasingly in the hands of individual travelers.
The fact that omicron is a mystery only adds to the difficulty of the situation. Scientists have discovered that it spreads quickly — possibly up to three times as quickly as the delta variant. It also appears to be more adept at evading vaccines, despite the fact that boosters provide increased protection, particularly against hospitalization and death. There is, however, one important question to consider: Does omicron cause less severe illness than delta? A small amount of research suggests it does, but these findings are preliminary.
Even if the infection is milder, the sheer number of infections caused by omicron could cause hospitals to become overwhelmed. That makes determining how far to dial back the festive season’s intensity difficult.
In the United States, an estimated 149,000 infections occur every day, and officials announced this week that the omicron variant had supplanted the delta variant as the dominant variant. It was the first time ever that daily cases exceeded 100,000 in the United Kingdom, where an omicron-fueled surge is being watched closely by policymakers in many other European countries. Infection rates are increasing in France, Spain, and Italy, as well.
They are concerned about the omicron and delta atoms, which concern Fravel and his wife, Sue Malomo, who are both software developers with a total of six children between them. “The thought of being in those big crowds didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense,” said Fravel, 51, of why they decided against going to New York City.
Having a large number of people over did not help either. Between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, an average of 20 to 25 people pass through. However, this year, only the children will attend, and they will not all arrive at the same time.
“For the time being, the plan is for everyone to just kind of stay put in smaller circles or communicate via FaceTime,” Fravel explained.
England, a lobbyist for energy companies, considered his options as well and determined that a trip was feasible. He and his wife both received booster shots, which gives him peace of mind, despite the fact that his daughter is too young for the vaccine.
In part, he explained, they chose Miami because they would be able to eat exclusively outside and then spend their time on the beach and at the pool. He is, however, still cautious, stating that they were “80/20 going” as of Tuesday evening.
Julieta Aranguren, a Colombian native, has already started her journey. The 18-year-old was in Madrid on Wednesday for a layover before continuing on to Dubai, where she planned to spend time with relatives. She had already spent thousands of dollars on flights and hotels, which she had booked nine months in advance, so she said she had no intention of canceling.
However, she is still confronted with the unknown. Considering that her group intends to go shopping, dine out, and attend the World Expo in Dubai, “it would be no fun at all” if there were more restrictions, Aranguren stated emphatically.
It is still unclear which path will be taken by the majority of the population. In an interview with the Guardian published last week, Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, revealed that the airline had reduced its forecast for the number of passengers in December from 11 million to 10 million.
Several airlines in the United States have maintained a positive outlook.
Delta Air Lines expects to fly about 8 million passengers during the holiday season, which is more than double the number of passengers it flew during the same period last year but less than the 9.3 million passengers it flew during the same period this year. Between December 19 and January 1, American Airlines expects to operate approximately 5,000 daily flights, an increase from 3,700 at the same time last year. However, there were significantly more — 6,300 — during the 2019 holiday season.
In their respective reports, both airlines stated that international travel was the most adversely affected by the omicron variant.
Alex Wong believes this to be true. The freelance journalist and radio producer from Toronto has canceled a flight to New York scheduled for the middle of December, which would have been his first trip since the pandemic started. He was concerned about being stuck in quarantine upon his return, which would prevent him from seeing his family during the holidays. He was right to be concerned.
The text message read, “Feels like I made the right decision and I’m feeling better by the day.” On Wednesday, he will receive a booster shot, and he will visit his parents, who live nearby, over the weekend.
The type of balanced calculation that many experts recommend is the one described above.
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 a gathering, according to Matthew Binnicker, director of clinical virology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Experts, on the other hand, warn that tests are not a reliable barrier against infection.
According to him, “it’s a good idea to kind of rethink big plans, such as travel or getting together in large groups.”
Individuals in small groups of less than ten people can congregate safely if they ensure that everyone is immunized, wear face masks indoors, and encourage those who are most vulnerable to severe disease to remain at home. Opening windows to improve ventilation and spending as much time outside as possible are other recommendations made by experts.
“The holidays are a time for me to reflect on the well-being of others. “This is frequently expressed in the form of gifts, charitable donations, or volunteer work,” Binnicker explained. Taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and influenza this year, on the other hand, is an excellent way to remember others this holiday season,” says the author.