By Eileen Ogintz

The holidays have ended. Despite the rapid increase in Covid cases due to the Omicron variant, more than 109 million were expected to a have traveled during the holiday period, according to AAA Travel. But Omicron continues to rage. What should you do to safely plan and undertake travel in the New Year?

Public health advisors continue to urge Americans to get vaccinated—and just as importantly to get a booster shot. But only one in six Americans have received a booster shot. In New York City, with a record number of daily new Covid infections, only about 1.5 million New Yorkers out of more than 8 million had received booster shots.

For the latest information,  consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.

The United States was averaging more than 400,000 new cases each day as of Monday, double the previous week’s rate, according to Washington Post data, and is expected to soon hit as many as 1 million cases per day. Fauci, speaking on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, said “the real bottom line that you want to be concerned about is: Are we getting protected by the vaccines from severe disease leading to hospitalization?”

Binax home test kit
Binax home test kit provided free by State of Colorado

Many people are frustrated by the shortage of covid tests available, either for free or purchase. Rightly so since tests are now required to get into some public places, as well as to fly to certain international destinations or to board cruise ships. President Biden, over the holidays, pledged the federal government to provide free at home Covid tests, but the rollout of this program has been slow. Some states have been providing at-home tests for free (albeit in limited supplies) already.

Meanwhile, air travel is being severely impacted, with tens of thousands of flights cancelled since Christmas, mainly due to staffing shortages due to Covid infections. Likewise, the CDC warned last week that even fully vaccinated and boosted travelers should avoid cruise ships until further notice. That was the result of thousands of reported onboard infections on multiple cruise lines. But people are still flying and cruising — in fact, as I recently reported, many cruise passengers feel safer on a cruise than in a supermarket at home.

While children starting at age five are eligible to be vaccinated, the result of the trials with younger children was disappointing. “So, they’re now looking at this as a three-dose vaccine for children, and if you are going to do that, you’re going to need more data, and that’s going to delay what we had hoped would be a time frame for the getting those younger children vaccinated,” Dr. Fauci told ABC News.

Should you travel with unvaccinated kids? Public health experts are still discouraging people who are not fully vaccinated from traveling. Families who must travel and have children who are not fully vaccinated should choose the safest travel options for their group, the American Academy of Pediatrics says. If possible, travel by car. If you must fly, be careful around large groups at security and baggage claim.

President Biden and his top public health advisors continue to urge Americans to get vaccinated—and just as importantly to get a booster shot. But only one in six Americans have received a booster shot. In New York City, with a record number of daily new Covid infections, only about 1.5 million New Yorkers out of more than 8 million had received booster shots. Omicron infections appear to evade regular one- or two-dose vaccinations but the booster shot seems to prevent serious illness and hospitalization. “For the unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death,” President Biden said.

So, if you are planning travel in the next couple of months, the best advice is to get fully vaccinated and boosted, follow guidelines on masking and distancing, and stay tuned for more developments. We wish we didn’t need to say that, going into year THREE of the Covid 19 Pandemic.

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