Traveling during this holiday season already had some risk due to the Delta variant of the coronavirus, which is still responsible for tearing through much of the USA currently. Now, a new variant, Omicron, has appeared like the Grinch, ready to spoil everything—and, since it's "more transmissible," maybe put you at risk. While it's still too early be be anything but "concerned"—don't panic, say experts—Surgeon General Vivek Murthy appeared on Face the Nation yesterday, with host Margaret Brennan, to say how this will affect your holidays. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Surgeon General Said Here's What's Being Looked At, When it Comes to Omicron
"We're still learning a lot about the Omnicon variant," said Dr. Murthy. "We've detected a couple of dozen cases here in the United States. There are a number of countries around the world, which have now found normal crime, but this is actually the pattern that we see with these variants. They start and they're discovered in one place, and then they quickly spread around the world. The important thing is, as we work hard to gain answers to the three critical questions Omicron, about its transmissibility, its severity, and its response to our vaccines and therapeutics. It's critical that people know we do have tools that we can use right now to protect ourselves against this variant and against the Delta variant, which is still the predominant variant in the United States. And those include getting vaccinated, getting boosted."
Surgeon General Said This About Your Holiday Plans
Brennan said we're all fatigued and here comes another new variant; what would Murthy say to people who made holiday plans? "Well, first I understand that fatigue," said Murthy. "We've been at this for 22 months as a country and that the prospect of another variant I know can be exhausting and frustrating to many people out there. And I get that when I want to say to everyone is that we are not back in March 2020. We are not at the beginning of this pandemic back at square one. We have learned a tremendous amount about how to gather safely, just take this thing last Thanksgiving. For example, I think about Halloween this year. I took my children trick or treating for Halloween, many families gathered for Thanksgiving things that they didn't do last year…."
Brennan interjected that those gatherings were leading to infections.
"Well, what we do know is that people use the tools that we have, that you can actually gather with much, much less risk," said Murthy, who said the challenge is "that we have millions of people who are still unvaccinated, which poses a risk to their lives, but also poses an increased risk of transmission." You need to get vaccinated or boosted, "you use testing judiciously before you gather, you gather in well ventilated spaces and use masks. Whenever you can in public indoor spaces, your risk can be quite low and your holidays can be quite fulfilling."
Surgeon General Said This About Which Mask You Should Wear
"For Americans at home right now, should they just put on their cloth mask or do they need to go buy an N95 because of these new variants and expected uptick?" asked Brennan. "Well, what we've seen throughout the COVID pandemic is a better quality masks lead to better quality protection. You know, if you wear a cloth mask properly, then you can get a go out of protection. If you upgrade to a K95 or an N95 in certain circumstances that can give you even more protection."
Surgeon General Said This About the South African Travel Ban
A restriction on travel from South Africa "was put in place, these restrictions and travel first because they were in the growing number of rapid growing number of cases that were found in South Africa and the travel restrictions, they don't permanently keep the variant out," admitted Dr. Murthy. They "can buy you some time they can buy you some time to do important things." But, said Brennan, Omicron is now in tons of countries. So why target South Africa? "If you look at this, we're in a very different situation than we were in the beginning of the pandemic when travel restrictions were put in place. And one of the big differences is that we have travel measures, safety measures that actually are helping reduce your risk," said Murthy. "And those include guaranteeing that people get on international flights are vaccinated and pre-travel testing that we use the time to actually strengthen those travel measures. The CDC announced that it's going to be shortening that window to 24 hours. We use that time to backstage millions of more Americans, but listen, the bottom line is these are meant to be temporary measures. Nobody wants them to be on for any longer than they need to be. And that's why we are continuously reevaluating them so that we can get them off. As soon as it's appropriate."
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How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.