Virginia health officials say holiday travelers need to be aware of the Omicron variant


BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed a recent case of COVID-19 in a person in California was caused by the Omicron variant, making it the first case of the variant in the U.S.

The California and San Francisco Departments of Public Health identified the strain more than a week after the person returned from a trip to South Africa on Nov. 22.

State and federal health officials say the person was traveling home after the Thanksgiving holiday and was vaccinated but did not get a booster shot.

Dr. Brandy Darby — a veterinary epidemiologist for the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) — says if you are hitting the roads, the tracks, or the skies this holiday season, you need to be smart, especially with the Omicron variant now in the U.S.

“If you are going to pick somewhere to sit in the airport or the train station while waiting for transportation, try to find an area that is away from people,” said Dr. Darby. “Maybe there is a gate that is kind of empty and that will allow you to have more distance from others. Also, plan ahead with your vaccines as well.”

Health experts around the country are asking anyone who has not gotten the vaccine to rethink travel plans. Also, if you are fully vaccinated, Dr. Darby says boosters are still a necessity moving forward.

“It’s not like you can’t travel now or that you have to wait a certain period of time after you get the booster, but we just want to make sure that you are maintaining a really high level of protection going forward,” explained Dr. Darby.

According to Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel, “That given a large number of mutations, it is highly possible that the efficacy of the vaccine — all of them — is going down.”

However, with COVID-19 booster shoots now approved for all adults, community members who spoke with WFXR News say it’s all about common sense.

“With the new variant, just keep wearing your masks, stay vaccinated. If you do not feel good, stay home. Just keep doing the right thing,” said Jacob Powell, a Blacksburg resident.

In addition, Virginia Tech student Walker Wilkins says we need to remain cautious because of how other variants have spread through the country in just a matter of weeks.

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