Experts worried about rising COVID Omicron cases ahead of holiday travel

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Experts are worried the upcoming holiday gatherings will cause a spike in COVID cases early next year, especially with the increasing number of Omicron variant cases.

“People are letting their guard down prematurely,” Dr. Paul Kamitsuka with Wilmington Health said. “We’ve done this over and over during this pandemic, and have paid the cost.”

Dr. Kamitsuka says he expects this to be a slightly safer holiday travel season than last year, but only if people follow guidelines laid out by fellow health experts.

Kamitsuka says you run the risk of contracting COVID no matter where you travel in the country.

“The entire United States is an area of risk right now,” Dr. Kamitsuka said. “So the same principles of common sense apply regardless of where people are coming from.”

Wilmington resident Heather Ellifritz says her family learned from their gathering last year, and plan to stay as safe as possible when traveling this year.

“Our whole family ended up getting COVID during Christmas,” Ellifritz said. “So we all had to quarantine over New Year’s. Hopefully this year it’ll be much better, since we’ve all kinda got through it and on the other side.”

Resident Mary Mendez says she’s ready for the holiday season, and is looking forward to a safer Christmas for her children.

“The kids actually get to be around their friends this year, and do things that weren’t open last year,” Mendez said. “So that’s exciting for them.”

Dr. Kamitsuka stresses while you should use caution when gathering, Omicron shouldn’t necessarily keep you from your holiday plans.

“If we have multiple layers of protection, such as vaccination, boosting and testing, then I think we could be quite confident that we could gather safely,” Kamitsuka said.

Dr. Kamitsuka says the best way to ensure your safety is to have everyone take a COVID test within 24 hours of your gathering to provide further peace of mind.

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