More than 109 million people are expected to travel over the next two weeks despite a new COVID-19 surge, with omicron leading the way accounting for nearly three quarters of new cases.
Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Health, spoke with CapRadio's Randol White to answer questions and concerns as we head into the holiday travel and party season.
On how safe we should we feel if we've been boosted within RNA vaccine like Pfizer or Moderna
Well, that's as safe as you can get these days. Omicron can escape vaccine-induced immunity and immunity from previous infection. But having been boosted, the early studies from areas where omicron has been the predominant strain circulating suggest that boosted individuals have a 70% protection against hospitalization due to infection with omicron.
On what he’d recommend for those who plan to meet up with family or friends indoors
Yeah, so 90% of transmission of COVID takes place indoors compared to outdoors. And if the weather is cold, if it's raining, then it's just not feasible to socialize outdoors. And so really the main protection is to make sure that the people you're with are fully vaccinated.
On if he recommends people get tested before and after parties, even if they are vaccinated
That's one tool, but I think of it as kind of a clumsy tool because the home tests are getting more and more difficult to find. There's a lot of shortages of those. So I'm just not sure how feasible it is, and that only tells you what the test is at that moment in time. It doesn't tell you what it is the next day. So I just think that's a lot of work following that strategy. And I think vaccination and masking, those are the two things that I would emphasize.
On if cloth masks still work or if we need to double mask
The thing with the omicron variant is that it's two to five times more transmissible than delta, and we all know how delta was, and that was really so disruptive in the late spring and early summer. So really, we need to double down on masking. We need to double down on vaccination. And the cloth masks, some of them are good, but they're not well standardized. And so you just don't know what you're getting with the different cloth masks. The standard disposable surgical masks, those are worthwhile. Using double masking is another strategy that you can utilize. And if you're going to be somewhere where you're not able to social distance for a prolonged period of time, using an N95 is a good idea.
On if people should quarantine after they get to their travel destinations
I'm not recommending that. What I'm recommending is to use your N95 when you're traveling to the airport, when you're at the airport, when you're on the plane and until you're out of the airport. Now, I can say that because I don't have any facial hair. People who have facial hair, the N95 are not going to work as well. And you can go online to find several self-testing tutorials and to see if they are fitting well.
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