To cancel or not? Infectious disease specialist gives green light for holiday travel, advises people to stay alert

Coronavirus

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — To cancel or not to cancel? That’s the question many people are faced with as the omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to spread across the country.

No cases have been detected in Virginia or North Carolina, but as we know, anything can change in a matter of time. When folks were traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday, the new COVID variant omicron wasn’t even a thought. Now, it’s top of mind for many people as they get ready to head to their holiday destinations this month. 

“COVID has been going for multiple mutations over the last 2 years,” said Dr. Bogdan Neughebauer, an infectious disease specialist at Sentara. “We could say we have dozens of variants of COVID.”

The new variant began making headlines immediately after it was first detected in South Africa, and there now cases detected in dozens of countries, including the U.S. 

“What’s interesting about this specific strain, the omicron, is it contains multiple mutations and because of that, some people felt it was more important to pay more attention to this specific strain,” Dr. Neughebauer said. “This is why it was called a variant of concern.”

Dr. Neughebauer said there are still a lot of unknowns about this strain, and health professionals are actively studying data. 

“What we know based on the anecdotal data is that people tend to get infected much faster with omicron but on the same token, the infections seem to be milder,” he said.

Based on current data, Dr.  Neughebauer gives holiday travel the green light. 

“My advice is going to be very simple. Based on the information we have so far, we recommend you should enjoy your holidays,” he said.

Dr. Neughebauer said keep an eye on new information that could emerge in this ever-changing situation. 

Experts say getting vaccinated is still your best defense against COVID-19. On Wednesday, Pfizer announced early lab tests show its booster dose appears to give strong protection against the omicron variant. Dr. Neughebauer wants to remind you to wear a mask when traveling, which is required indoors at transportation hubs. 

10 On Your Side will have updates on the COVID-19 pandemic in every newscast.

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Senatara COVID-19 Infographic (Dec. 2020)

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