PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — New coronavirus concerns are taking center stage from coast to coast with cases now climbing, testing sites swamped and families now rattled as they prepare for the holiday during this serious spike.
At least 45 states, including Pennsylvania, have reported positive cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant. It comes as the whole country is seeing a sudden surge in COVID-19 cases. For travelers ahead of the holiday, this surge couldn’t come at a worse time.
AAA said millions of America are expected to fly this year for the holiday. It said airline travel will be up 184% from this time last year.
Health leaders are concerned about the number of people who will be going through airports this week, including the Pittsburgh International Airport. As the week goes on, they’re expecting more holiday travelers to come through.
For many, this year is a chance to make up for losing time with family last year.
“Last year it was just my husband and I. It was really sad,” Cathleen Matuzak from Mars said.
She is flying to Florida to see her daughter and is taking precautions.
“The mask, we’ve been immunized and boostered. Just trying to be safe,” Matuzak said.
As health leaders continue to stress this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated, Dr. Anthony Fauci says travel does increase the risk of the new Omicron variant spreading, but he says if people take the proper precautions, they should be okay. Those precautions include being masked, being vaccinated, and having received your booster dose for your vaccine.
“I’m vaccinated. I fully support that. It’s a decision, I feel a little. More covered being vaccinated. If I wasn’t, I don’t think I would be traveling if I wasn’t vaccinated,” Amber Ganoe said before flying back to Alabama.
What’s still unknown is the severity of disease caused by the Omicron variant, but doctors do know it’s clear that the variant has an extraordinary ability to spread.
There is a fear of unvaccinated people driving up hospitalizations, especially as people come together during the holiday season.
“If you’re not vaccinated, I would say travel is really not a great idea because you are in a very vulnerable place now with Omicron,” said Dr. Jonathan Reiner, Professor of Medicine and Surgery at George Washington University.
“I’ve been scared because COVID is still here but I think that it’s also a good time,” Brenda Gomez said as she flew back to Mexico to see family.
She’s hasn’t seen family in about a year and a half and plans to use caution to prevent the spread of the virus.
“Wear a mask. There a couple of days I got tested so that I don’t have COVID and pass it to my family,” she said.
Right now in the United States, about 65% of the eligible population is vaccinated.
President Biden is expected to speak Tuesday about COVID-19 and help for communities that need it.
Stay with KDKA.com and Your Day Pittsburgh for more on this developing story, as well as in our later newscasts.