The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been spreading rapidly and nearly every state had been touched by it as of Dec. 20 when The Laker/Lutz News went to press.
It has not yet been determined how dangerous Omicron is, and despite its rapid spread, the Delta virus remained the main variant circulating in the United States as of early this week, according to experts from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.
Omicron was first detected in specimens collected on Nov. 11 in Botswana and on Nov. 14 in South Africa, according to the CDC’s website. The first confirmed Omicron case in the United States was detected on Dec. 1.
An interpretive posting on the CDC’s website said: “We don’t yet know how easily it spreads, the severity of illness it causes, or how well available vaccines and medications work against it.”
Meanwhile, the rapid spread and uncertainty of Omicron’s impacts have hit at the height of the holiday travel season.
In a Dec. 14 posting, AAA predicted that more than 109 million people would travel 50 miles or more between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2 — a 34% increase from 2020.
AAA attributed the uptick in travel to the fact that so many Americans had to cancel getaways and get-togethers last year because of the pandemic and are making up for lost time this holiday season.
“That dramatic bounce-back — 27.7 million more people traveling — will bring this year’s numbers to 92% of 2019 levels. Airlines will see a 184% increase from last year,” according to AAA’s projections.
It is not yet known whether news of Omicron’s rapid spread will put a damper on holiday travel plans.
For those flying during the holidays, the Tampa International Airport reminds passengers that face masks are required in the airport.
The airport’s website also advises passengers to arrive two hours early.
Travelers should use carry-on luggage and mobile boarding passes to limit touchpoints, the TIA website advises.
While the pandemic’s impact on holiday plans has not yet played out, COVID-19 infections already have had an impact in the worlds of entertainment and professional sports.
The Radio City Rockettes canceled the remainder of its Christmas Spectacular “due to increasing challenges from the pandemic,” according to a Dec. 17 posting on its website.
There was no live audience at Saturday Night Live, and the NBA, NFL and NHL have postponed games.
Overall, the United States recently surpassed 50 million COVID-19 cases and 800,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to the CDC.
Florida reported 35,720 cases in the seven-day period ending Dec. 18, according to figures reported by the CDC.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommends these steps to reduce the chance of a COVID-19 infection:
- Get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can. If you’re eligible for a booster shot, get one now.
- Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth when in indoor public places.
- Whenever possible, stay 6 feet apart from people who don’t live with you.
- Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
- Consider self-testing before indoor gatherings. If you are sick or have symptoms, don’t go.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water; use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.
Published December 22, 2021