Health officials are urging travelers to take precautions as the holiday season approaches, warning of an expected surge in COVID-19, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases. With hundreds of thousands of passengers passing through airports in the Bay Area, infectious disease experts are advising individuals to wear masks, especially for long-distance travel.
UCSF’s Dr. George Rutherford emphasized the importance of wearing masks in airports and on planes to minimize the risk of infection. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 remain low in the Bay Area, but health officials anticipate a rise in cases during the holiday season. According to Dr. Peter Chin-Hong from UCSF, influenza cases are expected to more than double this winter, while it is hoped that RSV cases will start to decline.
In addition to the three respiratory viruses, there is concern about the highly transmissible HV.1 variant, which has become the most dominant and infectious strain in the country. The CDC states that the latest COVID booster should provide protection against severe disease caused by HV.1. However, unvaccinated travelers are advised to exercise caution, as previous strategies to avoid infection may not be as effective against this variant.
Travelers are reminded that masks are currently optional at San Francisco Airport (SFO), but highly recommended for safety. SFO is anticipating a surge in passengers, with 6.3 million people expected to travel from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, amounting to 87% of pre-pandemic traffic. The increased traffic has led to concerns over parking capacity, prompting airport staff to suggest alternative methods of transportation.
Similarly, Oakland Airport is already facing limited parking availability, with over 360,000 passengers projected to pass through during the Thanksgiving weekend. Both airports are anticipating the busiest day to be Wednesday, November 22, with SFO expecting approximately 144,000 visitors.
Q: Should I wear a mask during air travel?
A: Yes, it is highly recommended, especially for long-distance travel.
Q: What should I expect in terms of COVID, flu, and RSV cases this holiday season?
A: Health officials anticipate a surge in cases, particularly after Thanksgiving, the December holidays, and the New Year.
Q: Is the HV.1 variant a cause for concern?
A: Yes, the HV.1 variant is highly transmissible, and unvaccinated travelers should exercise caution.
Q: Are there any recommendations for airport travel?
A: It is advised to arrive at least two hours before domestic flights and at least three hours before international flights.
– [CDC COVID-19 Variants of Concern and Variants of Interest](https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/index.html)
– [San Francisco International Airport](https://www.flysfo.com/)