OPINION: A new strain calls for more caution this holiday season

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By Kelsey Olarte

Although the discovery of the Omicron variant has made me question if this holiday season will be a superspreader event, celebrating the holidays safely is plausible and achievable with the right precautions. 

We can still practice our festivities and traditions if we remain informed and cautious. 

The surge of fully vaccinated individuals, endorsement of booster shots and holiday tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have made it easier to safely celebrate the holidays with loved ones beyond the four walls of our rooms — but is this enough?

The United States has endured multiple waves of the coronavirus. 

Numerous restrictions have been mandated and lifted to accommodate our daily life, such as allowing outdoor gatherings and only requiring masks for those not fully vaccinated within specific locations. 

For the most part, those vaccinated are finding themselves returning to a nearly synonymous life before the pandemic. Concerns about spreading the virus are gradually being alleviated as more individuals are getting vaccinated.

However, December and January will be the first time people will celebrate holidays that will not involve quarantining.

It is only fair that there is skepticism in the face of something as new and fragile as returning to normalcy when celebrating the holidays. The CDC has not released a statement discouraging individuals from celebrating the holidays altogether but instead has published tips on guaranteeing a safer holiday season.

It will generally still be safe to celebrate the holidays with close family and friends if the necessary precautions have been taken. However, it is imperative to remember that although the chances of spreading COVID-19 among the vaccinated have decreased, it is still far from zero. 

With the current amount of research and a small number of cases throughout the country, the Omicron variant is still considered a “variant of concern.”

It is not a direct threat to those who plan to celebrate the holidays and interact with various people. However, amidst concerns, individuals should remain compliant with the suggestions of the CDC to ensure the safety of their family or friends.

The CDC recommends people practice safe outdoor gatherings, wear masks in indoor settings with substantial chances for high transmission, and avoid crowds altogether if you have any symptoms.

In terms of travel, the CDC highly recommends individuals to be fully vaccinated before traveling. If an individual cannot be vaccinated and must travel, the CDC has created an exclusive set of guidelines for domestic and international travel.

However, I highly recommend that if you are traveling to see relatives or friends, even if it is just a small road trip, get tested before and after your trip to ensure your safety and everyone else who has come into contact with you.

Despite discovering the Omicron variant, people can still continue the celebrations and traditions that were lost during the height of the pandemic last year, but only if they proceed with the utmost precaution and display a cooperative attitude maintaining protocols advised by the CDC.

It may be enjoyable to leisurely visit loved ones without checking vaccination status or ditching the masks for the plethora of family photos, but we should remember that safety should be our ultimate priority during this holiday season to guarantee celebratory traditions and days of normalcy in the future.

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