Duke experts discuss holiday plans and travel amid new COVID-19 variant


DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Just in time for the winter holiday travel rush, the United States is dealing with a new COVID-19 variant and a rise in cases.

Infectious disease experts want to make clear that the current increase in North Carolina is still due to the delta variant, but it’s only a matter of time before we see more omicron cases, and we need to protect ourselves from both.

Dr. David Montefiori, with Duke’s Human Vaccine Institute, says it’s important to take precautions.

“Be sure to wear your mask, do social distancing as much as possible, avoid any large gatherings,” he said, adding that safety measures can, “Hopefully, prevent this variant from taking off and really causing a problem.”

That’s not to say, you should cancel all Christmas plans. Doctors say we are in better shape than this time last year.

“The big fundamental difference is we are heavily vaccinated,” noted Dr. Cameron Wolfe, an infectious disease expert at Duke. “Let’s not undersell that we are far better positioned than we were in January and December.”

But experts warn that we don’t yet know how the new omicron variant will respond to vaccines.

“I am planning to travel for Christmas,” said Wolfe. “But I’m planning to travel with my N95 masks and my family masked. I plan to travel knowing that we are all vaccinated, and I plan to travel recognizing that if I have any symptoms in the days before, and probably anyway, I will get a test.”

He added, “Even if I know I’m fully vaccinated and boosted and not likely to get severe illness, I don’t want to take my minor illness to people who may be at more grave risk of COVID.”

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