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With Omicron variant BA.2 circulating locally, experts advise understanding travel risks

Many people are traveling again. Plan ahead for a safe trip
Beth Thornton
Many people are traveling again. Plan ahead for a safe trip.

After two years of restrictions and uncertainty, people are venturing out on planes, trains, and buses again. But just as summer vacation plans are taking shape, Omicron subvariant BA.2 is circulating around the country and on the Central Coast.

“BA.2 is with us, and it is likely to cause an increase in cases over these next few weeks, but that’s not reason for us to panic, simply reason for us to lean back on all of the good information we now have, and protect ourselves,” Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons said.

Fitzgibbons is an Infectious Disease physician with Cottage Health in Santa Barbara. She’s been tracking the omicron variant in the United Kingdom, the East Coast, and now in California.

“As we see [Los Angeles] County numbers increase, I think that’s a good warning for us that in these next perhaps 2-4 weeks, it is likely that we’re going to see an increase in cases,” she said.

Face coverings are still mandatory inside airports like SBA.
Beth Thornton
Face coverings are recommended inside airports like SBA.

She said the variant is highly infectious, but the population is well protected through vaccines or earlier exposure to COVID-19.

“It certainly looks like it’s going to be less of a surge than what we recently experienced with Omicron,” Fitzgibbons said.

She said that unlike in the past, we know how to protect ourselves. We have vaccines, masks, and test kits.

Whether traveling near or far, Fitzgibbons suggested learning about the COVID-19 situation in your destination city then making a thoughtful assessment of personal risk.

She said if you’re older or in a high-risk category and several months have passed since your last vaccine, a booster shot is a good idea.

Pack a test kit in your luggage, too. And if you do get sick while traveling, Fitzgibbons said it’s important to wear a mask and stay away from other people.

She also said it’s never too late to get vaccinated because a healthy vacation will be much more enjoyable.

Beth Thornton is a freelance reporter for KCBX, and a contributor to Issues & Ideas. She was a 2021 Data Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, and has contributed to KQED's statewide radio show The California Report.
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