CHICAGO (WLS) -- COVID is once again surging in many parts of the country, and deaths now top 800,000. A new variant, omicron, has many worried as delta's dominance remains.
"This year, we are in better a position than we were in 2020. We now have vaccines available for much of the population, including children," says Dr. Chris Colbert, assistant program director of the emergency medicine residency program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
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Theatregoers hurriedly made their way into Civic Opera House Sunday night, flashing their vaccination cards to gain access to the night's performance of the Nutcracker. It's the first show after two days of cancelations due to a breakthrough COVID case within the company.
"We came down here to see my friends in the choir singing at it and I was worried, oh no, are we going to miss it because we didn't know if this show would be canceled too," said Gio Nicolai.
Tis' the season. Across Chicago, a pandemic-weary populace is just trying to have a normal Christmas. Whether it's going to a show, or drinking apple cider at the Christkindlemarket or shopping for last-minute gifts along Michigan Avenue.
This, as the state reported its highest number of cases in a single day last week.
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The question is, should people be out and about, or should we, once again, be hunkering down, not traveling and avoiding those large family gatherings?
"It's advisable to not travel, not attend that family gathering, if you're not vaccinated," said Dr. Kiran Joshi, senior medical officer with Cook County Health. "Regardless of vaccination status, please, please, please, at a minimum get tested before you go. You could get tested two to three days before the gathering and also test of the day of."
The testing recommendations are especially critical as we enter what medical experts say is a surge on top of a surge. Health officials say they are seeing Omicron variant case rates duplicating every two to three days, adding that the new variant is escaping vaccines at a much higher rate than Delta. It's a recommendation that many families are already implementing.
"We had our first holiday with family last night. It's a cousin Christmas," said Patty Daw. "There are about 30 of us."
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"It was good to see everybody, but we just want to make sure that everybody is healthy and safe and that we can enjoy many more Christmases together," added Meghan Sedivy.
Top travel tips this holiday season:
Get vaccinated: If you are still not vaccinated, do so now. It is the best way to keep you and your family safe this holiday season. The same goes for the flu shot.
Get boosted: Booster shots are now recommended for the entire U.S. population, 18 and up.
Wear a mask: Masks remain an important barrier to prevention.
Wash your hands: The oldest trick in the book, good hygiene is key.
Avoid crowds: Stay away from large crowds indoors with poor ventilation.
Sick? Stay home: If you are not feeling well, it is best to stay home as not to put anyone else at risk.
Get tested: Tests are available at your local pharmacy.