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How to visit your loved ones safely this holiday amid omicron spread

How to visit your loved ones safely this holiday amid omicron spread
Posted at 11:17 PM, Dec 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-21 23:17:36-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Even the vaccinated should remain vigilant. That was the message of a Richmond health expert as the omicron variant continued to spread.

With the countdown to Christmas on, Virginia travelers took to the skies Tuesday.

"This is my first flight, so I'm ready," said Annette Terry.

Terry was just one of several travelers CBS 6 spoke to at the Richmond International Airport that was on their way to visit family for Christmas.

For the first time in two years, Njideka Pollard said she would be seeing family.

"I used to travel quite a lot, I haven’t seen them -- yeah, it’s been a while," Pollard said.

The Dallas native was going to have to cross the Atlantic to do it.

"We’ll stay about a week in Germany and then we’ll go to Nigeria," she said.

COVID concerns had kept her away, and even now, she said she worried about the omicron variant.

"Being in the medical field, working in the hospital and so on, you will know that this is real. It’s not a joke. COVID is real omicron is real," Pollard said.

Dr. Melissa Viray, Deputy Director with the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts, wanted people to keep that in mind when they spent time with the ones they loved most this year.

"We just have to be aware that there are indications that omicron may have a transmission advantage," Dr. Viray said.

Over the last few weeks, COVID cases have continued to increase in the Richmond metro region and state. Dr. Viray said health officials had expected that increase amid the winter months as more people congregate indoors. But omicron could exacerbate it.

"The best things folks can do is, in your making your choices, make sure that you do as much as you can to put layers of protection between yourself and your family members, yourself and the folks your visiting," Dr. Viray said.

That meant not attending events if you feel ill, getting vaccinated for those who haven’t already, and a booster if eligible.

But she said even the vaccinated should be cautious -- especially around those who are vulnerable.

"If you're going to be going to a large event, if you're going to be going to visit someone who might have, who might be older, who might have a compromised immune system, or might be vulnerable, who might not be vaccinated because they're too young, go ahead and get the test before you go," Dr. Viray said. "And then making sure that you know, keeping your mask on, keeping your distance as much as you can, especially if you're going to be traveling."

"Even if you're boosted, I am less worried about you. And I'm less worried about your risk of acquiring and transmitting than if you weren't. But if you want to be extra safe, go ahead and get tested," Dr. Viray added.

Pollard said she planned to take precautions like masking and distancing around extended family. She also got her booster two days ago in preparation for her trip.

She and so many others looked forward to that special reunion.

"It’s very important for me to see them now because most of them are getting older," she said. "Because we don't know what tomorrow holds."