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

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — Health officials are warning travelers of an uptick in COVID cases as the Bay Area braces for another “tripledemic” of COVID, flu and RSV cases.

What to expect

As hundreds of thousands of travelers pass through Bay Area 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 UCSF. “Especially if you’re traveling long distances.”

According to ABC7’s COVID tracker, hospitalizations remain low in the Bay Area. But public health officials, including infectious disease experts, expect cases to increase at different times during the holiday season.

MORE: New mask mandates begin at Bay Area hospitals in attempt to prevent another ‘tripledemic’

“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 at ABC7 News.

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.”

Airport travel

Masks are optional at the San Francisco Airport, but are still highly recommended to be safe. The OFS predicts that 6.3 million passengers will travel between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, 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.”

Meanwhile, at Oakland Airport, unreserved parking is already limited.

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

“We expect more than 360,000 passengers to pass through the airport between last Friday and Monday,” said David DeWitt, a spokesman for the Port of Oakland. “This represents 85% of pre-pandemic traffic.”

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.

If you’re on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live

Gn Health

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