Here's how to stay safe from the COVID-19 omicron variant while traveling for the holidays this year

ByKay Cesinger WLS logo
Sunday, December 12, 2021
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Infectious disease experts Dr. Allison Bartlett and Dr. Hemil Gonzalez join ABC7 to discuss staying safe from COVID-19 during holiday travel.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The number of COVID-19 cases is on the rise here in Chicago and across Illinois.

And while delta is still the dominant variant, omicron is here. All of this comes as many of us are preparing to celebrate the holidays with family and friends after skipping many of those gatherings last year.

"There's no evidence that omicron is more severe than any of the other variants. And the good news is, by and large most kids do well and don't end up in the hospital with a Covid-19 infection, said Dr. Allison Bartlett, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at University of Chicago Medicine's Comer Children's Hospital. "That said, infectious are not without their difficulties. Kids are having to stay home from school, remote learning continues to be a challenge. And so there is definitely an important role here for vaccination to help prevention infection in the kids and to help prevent transmission among others in the community who may be vulnerable."

So how can families with children stay safe if they're traveling for the holidays?

"I think especially with this what appears to be very transmissible omicron variant out there that vaccinated or not we need to double or triple down on our non-medical prevention," said Bartlett. "Our masks, consider wearing eye protection or at least if you are a glasses or contacts person wear your glasses. Make sure you are washing your hands and as much as possible when you are in the airport remain socially distant from those around you. Obviously, when you're on the airplane, you are constrained. But this is really where masking is essential."

Our Chicago Part 2

Dr. Hemil Gonzalez is an infectious disease physician at Rush University Medical Center.

"For adults, particularly those who may have a compromised immune system you want to be extremely careful with social distancing, masking, proper hygiene, When you're sitting in your seat on the airplane make sure you wipe everything down," Gonzalez said. "Then have a very low threshold for testing if you have any sort of symptoms."

He said rapid testing is something he "strongly" suggests, especially for adults who are vulnerable.

"We're trying to prevent asymptomatic transmission in someone coming to our family gathering who may be carrying the virus and its very transmissible, they may be asymptomatic and still infect others," Gonzalez said. "So we would suggest before you meet with your family to have the testing done and you can get the results in as short as 15 minutes."