PORTSMOUTH, Va (WAVY) — COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are going up in Virginia and the state health commissioner expects to see cases increase even more after the holidays.

Dr. Norman Oliver spoke with WAVY ahead of the holidays to caution people about the spread of COVID-19. He also said he believes people can celebrate safely with family and friends by taking precautions.

“The thing that’s most worrisome for me would be large crowds, so being in large busy airports can be problematic,” Oliver said.

Omicron, the new coronavirus variant, is now in Virginia. There are two confirmed cases in the commonwealth and 3,600 in the nation. Oliver told WAVY while cases of the variant, in other countries, have been mostly mild, we don’t know exactly how it will behave in the U.S.

“If it’s more transmissible, as it appears, we can expect in several weeks or a month or so for it to become much more dominant,” he said.

Your best protection, he advises, is to get vaccinated. If you are already vaccinated, get a booster.
He also prescribes wearing a mask indoors, washing your hands frequently and keeping a social distance.

“Try and make the gatherings small as possible, the larger number of people you gather around the higher your risk of getting exposed to COVID-19,” he said.

As another line of defense, you can also test yourself before traveling and then again about three days after you return.

VDH has partnered with libraries to provide free at-home COVID-19 testing kits in some communities.

“I can understand the sentiment of just wanting to throw your hands up and say ‘I’m done with COVID-19.’ The unfortunate fact, however, is that COVID-19 is not done with us. It’s still here and it’s still raging,” Oliver said.

It’s no reason to cancel your Christmas vacation, Oliver said. Just take the precautions and celebrate safely.