Tampa Bay health, travel experts weigh in on taking trips amid emerging omicron variant

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Posted at 6:24 PM, Nov 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-30 18:24:13-05

TAMPA, Fla. — As the holiday season kicks into high gear, many people may be picking up and traveling. With the new omicron variant, some people may also have concerns about safety while going on those trips. Local travel and public health experts are sharing advice on how to stay safe and best secure your vacation.

Trips for Lori Judd have been a long-time coming. She leaves for a cruise on Wednesday, with another big trip coming in the spring.

“I also have a trip to Europe that I obviously had to postpone because of the pandemic that I’m rebooked for,” said Judd.

With the new omicron variant, ABC Action News asked Judd if it ever crossed her mind to hit the pause button on her plans.

“No not at all,” said Judd. “I actually have been taking a lot of precautions. I am boosterized, but I have been taking a lot of precautions, still wearing my mask when I’m out in public. I’ve got some home tests to take today."

Judd is also a certified travel agent with Prestige Travel Vacations and says she hasn’t yet heard concerns from clients.

“I think that we’re a lot more prepared now for this type of incident than we were in the past. We know what to kind of expect,” said Judd. “So my clients have not really made any changes to what they’re doing. I’m still getting new requests for even traveling to Europe. Everybody seems to be taking it in stride.”

As people weigh what to do with upcoming travel, Dr. Marissa Levine, a professor of Public Health Practice at USF Health, weighed in on if people should postpone or cancel trips with this new variant.

“It becomes a very personal decision. The issue really is that there are lots of new restrictions in place, so you really need to understand what’s going on where you’re planning to go,” said Levine.

Experts explain there are many unknowns about the omicron variant and learning more may take some time. According to the World Health Organization, it is not yet clear whether this variant is more easily spread from person to person compared to other variants or if it causes more severe disease.

Dr. Levine explains all the things we’ve been talking about during this pandemic matter, like masking, keeping your distance, and getting vaccinated, saying you should factor safety into your plans.

“I would say whatever you decide to do, pack your patience because you’re going to have to be able to be flexible and adapt, but I think you want to be fully informed before you go so you make the best decisions,” said Levine.

Experts say you’ll want to familiarize yourself with rapidly changing testing and other requirements depending on where you’re going, while also stressing the need to be flexible as we navigate this stage of the pandemic. Judd suggests trip insurance as a good idea too.

“The trip insurances have changed a little bit. They are covering some things and adding some extra medical costs, so if you do test positive and you can’t come back into the United States if you travel outside of the country, there are some policies that will protect you and give you some benefits to help cover some of those additional costs that you’re going to have,” said Judd. “That is your best bet, otherwise you’re at the mercy of the vendor you’re booking through.”