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Is it safe for Americans to travel for the holidays amid Omicron concerns?

The rapidly spreading Omicron variant and recent surge of Covid-19 cases in America have raised concerns for many about traveling and gathering over the holiday season.

Dr Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s top medical advisor, has said Americans can proceed with travel plans as long as they are vaccinated and boosted if eligible, and wear masks and avoid unnecessary risks, like large crowds.

‘If you have a vaccinated situation, your family is vaccinated, enjoy the holidays indoors with your family,’ Fauci said on a CNN Global Town Hall on December 1.

While encouraging those taking proper precautions to enjoy the holidays, on Thursday Fauci added that the Omicron variant is still cause for concern.

The top infectious diseases expert said he believes the Omicron variant will become the dominant Covid-19 variant within a few weeks.

‘It is the most transmissible virus of Covid that we had to deal with those far. It will soon become dominant here. That’s one thing we know,’ Fauci told a virtual US Chamber of Commerce Foundation audience.

Coronavirus cases in the US are expected to jump 55% to 1.3million weekly by Christmas Day, according to a grim new prediction by the CDC. An additional 15,600 deaths per week could be reached by early January.

The US has been seeing a growing number of infections, though they’ve largely been the delta variant. The CDC reported an average of 118,000 new infections a day just over the past week – a 37% increase from the previous week. 

Other public health officials have also voiced concerns about the rising number of infections, warning that hospitals are still fighting the Delta variant, and may become overwhelmed once again.

‘When you look at the pace of the infections now, things will get worse as we go into the depth of the winter,’ he said. ‘And with Omicron breathing down our back, things could get really bad, particularly for the unvaccinated.’

Preliminary data suggests Omicron may be more contagious than Delta, but less likely to cause severe illness, though much remains unknown.

In New York City, the percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19 doubled in three days, according to Dr. Jay Varma, a senior public health adviser to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said the city has never seen anything like this before.

Despite the rising number of positive coronavirus cases, travel groups are predicting an influx of holiday travel this winter.

AAA estimates more than 109 million Americans will travel over the long Christmas and New Year’s week. Before the pandemic, a record setting 119 million Americans traveled during Christmas of 2019.

Airlines are expected to carry 6.4 million travelers during that holiday rush, according to AAA.

At least 36 states have reported confirmed Omicron cases, CDC officials said on Wednesday.

Though omicron is more contagious than previous variants, it is not yet clear whether it causes more mild or severe disease than past strains.

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