December 15, 2021 – The season is – again – for vacation trip and hanging out with friends and family amid global challenges pandemic. Yes, personal and public protection measures remain essential, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a Scrooge when it comes to traveling and hanging out with loved ones.
You can still enjoy gatherings and other holiday traditions if you prepare, stay patient and remember to consider the comfort level of others, infectious disease experts said at a media briefing Wednesday under the auspices of the American Society of Infectious Diseases.
“Here’s my practical advice for this holiday season … try to reconcile the risk reduction practices you can sustain with the activities you think will sustain you,” said Joshua Barocas, MD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Medicine. Colorado and Aurora.
Think about layers of protection such as masks, testing, outdoor activities and more – adjusting what you do based on how risky each situation is.
“Ultimately, the higher the risk situation, the more personal protection you need to stay healthy – and the lower the risk situation, the less mitigation you need,” said Barocas, who is also a member of the Society for Infectious Diseases.
The multi-layered approach is particularly important because uncertainty surrounding the Omicron variant is circulating in the US
The facts about Omicron are still limited, he said.
“But what we do know is that this variant seems to be transmitted faster.
“His weight is true, but still unknown. But here we are, “said Barocas.
“We’re all kind of waiting to see how this all unfolds,” Dr. Romney M. Humphries said during the briefing. “Many of us are a little worried, obviously, just to see what exactly the data is” shows how serious Omicron is and how well it can avoid vaccines.
It is also the season of colds and flu
Holidays are a traditional time when other respiratory viruses arrive as unwanted strangers at the door. For many who develop symptoms in late 2021, the natural first question is, “What do I have?”
“This season we have a lot of other viruses circulating, such as flu. But also, we see an awful lot of rhinovirus, which causes the common cold, ”said Humphries, medical director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
Double testing is a valid strategy, she said. “If you have any symptoms of a respiratory tract infection, the approach these days should really be tested for both viruses – COVID-19 and the flu.”
“I have a child at home, so I caught a cold last week,” said Humphries, who is also a member of the Society of Infectious Diseases. She said that testing “definitely pays off, not only for yourself and your health, but also for all those around you”.
Pack a little patience and empathy
Traveling on vacation can be stressful even in years without a pandemic. Add COVID-19 to the equation and well, be patient and admit that everyone is waiting for almost two years of additional challenges, experts advise.
“We are all frustrated. We are all tired, we are all just done,” Barocas said.
It’s important to remember that a person who works at an airport ticket counter, an employee of a grocery store, a person who works in a movie theater – “they’re not the ones who make the rules, they just do their job by doing them.”
“In the spirit of the unification attempt, I’m asking people to try to refrain from bringing that huge frustration on themselves.”
International travel could increase this holiday season after the Biden administration lifted the travel ban to 33 countries on 8 November.
“I know a lot of us are thinking about traveling to see a family we haven’t seen at this point in years,” Humphries said. “My family is outside the United States and I haven’t seen them in over 2 years.”
Staying separate was a challenge, she said. “This is really hard, especially for those of us who have older parents or have very young nieces and nephews – where a few years can make a huge difference.”
It’s more important than ever to prepare for the trip, Humphries said. With updated requirements that may include a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of travel, for example, ensure that you can be tested.
“As we look towards the holiday season, unfortunately, we expect that we might see some small rush of COVID-19,” Humphries said.
This could affect the capacity of local testing, how many tests are available, and the processing time of results.
“If you need a travel test, make sure you prepare well for it,” Humphries said.
Also understand that a negative virus test is required to re-enter the US
“So not an antibody test, but a test for the virus itself, within 24 hours of your departure to the United States by air,” she said.
A home test is only counted when done in front of a healthcare professional during a telehealth to visit, she added.
And for peace of mind, people may consider retesting after returning home from a trip.
“But absolutely, if you have symptoms, you should consider testing on COVID,” Humphries said. “Even if you’re vaccinated, because we still see considerable circulation.”
And if you’re traveling to visit friends or family or organizing a holiday gathering, read the room. It is important to be aware of and respect everyone’s level of comfort with potential COVID-19 exposure.
“We’re all on different levels,” Humphries said.
Some, for example, are comfortable going out to dinner if they are vaccinated, but others are not.
New Year’s resolutions
While traditional resolutions As lose weight or more exercise should always be applauded, an unusual year might require some unusual decisions. WebMD has asked infectious disease experts to make their own New Year’s resolutions at this point in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Let’s focus more on our mental health over the next year,” Humphries said. “I think we could all admit … it’s been a tough few years.”
He hopes to take the time to take care of himself and appreciate the importance of mental health “not only for me, but also for my child who couldn’t go to school and is still somehow in this strange place.”
Spending more time together is another goal for 2022, she said, which includes “making sure that as a family we take the time to enjoy each other’s company.”
Barocas agreed on the importance of spending time with family in 2022 and added two more resolutions.
“One is a little more understanding of other people’s situation. I believe we have lost a lot of time in this whole mess,” he said.
At the moment, everyone has a lot of quarrels and stress, he said.
“Bearing in mind that the person next to you suffers in the same way as you, it could be a good side New Year’s decision,” Barocas said.
His second New Year’s resolution is a request.
“If you’re not vaccinated, I’d decide to have conversations, open conversations, about the vaccine, about vaccination and its importance,” Barocas said. “So maybe you could head for vaccination.”