Thanksgiving travelers prepare for ‘new COVID threat’ with HV.1 variant; an expected flare-up, doctors say

Health officials are warning travelers of an uptick in COVID cases as the United States prepares for another “tripledemic” of COVID, flu and RSV cases.

What to expect

As millions of travelers pass through airports this week, doctors are urging passengers to wear masks as a new variant circulates.

“I would definitely wear a mask in the airport and on the plane,” said Dr. George Rutherford of UC San Francisco. “Especially if you’re traveling long distances.”

Public health officials, including infectious disease experts, expect cases to increase at various times during the holiday season.

What you need to know about the holiday season

“So we’re unfortunately expecting a surge after Thanksgiving and another surge that continues after the December holiday and then another surge after the New Year, realistically,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong of the UCSF.

Dr. Chin-Hong says flu cases are expected to more than double this winter.

“We are only at the beginning of our flu season and they will definitely increase,” he said. “With RSV, I hope we don’t increase too much and the cases start to decrease.”

The new “HV.1 threat”

All three viruses are associated with concerns about the country’s most dominant and infectious variant to date: HV.1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the latest COVID booster should protect against severe HV.1 illness. But unvaccinated travelers should be on alert.

“HV.1 is very transmissible,” said Dr. Chin-Hong. “So things that you might have used as strategies before to escape infection might not work as well anymore.”

Historic holiday travel season in the air and on the road: AAA

Airport travel

At the San Francisco airport alone, 6.3 million passengers are expected to travel between Thanksgiving and New Years, or 87% of pre-pandemic traffic. An increase which, according to airport staff, has an impact on parking.

“We are concerned that we may reach capacity over the Thanksgiving holiday,” said SFO spokesman Doug Yakel. “Then think about other ways to get to the airport.”

MORE: Why you should wait a few days to take a home COVID test if you’re sick

The next busiest day for both airports will be this Wednesday, November 22. The FSO expects around 144,000 people that day.

If you are traveling domestically, it is recommended to arrive two hours before your flight. For international flights, it is recommended to arrive at least three hours before takeoff.

How to get COVID tests delivered to your home

You can also receive more free COVID tests delivered directly to your home. The government is offering another round of four test kits ahead of the expected winter surge. According to the website, consumers can receive up to eight tests, if they did not receive one in September. To order, click here.

Other free government COVID-19 tests are available for home delivery by mail.

CDC warns of potential increase in flu numbers

Gn Health

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