Is the omicron variant prompting you to change your holiday plans?

Dec 23, 2021, 5:42 AM
holiday plans...
A laser display is seen on a wall for visitors at Starlight Lane, a drive-through Christmas event, at the Lumen Field Event Center Parking Garage on Dec. 10, 2020, in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

In light of the newest COVID variant, the omicron variant, are you changing your holiday plans?

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“Back in 2020, we did change plans in light of the pandemic. We were looking out for my grandma, we wanted to make sure she was staying healthy,” said Nick, a KIRO Radio board operator. “But this year, we’ve started to get back into the swing of things with the traditions.”

“We just had Thanksgiving. … I think we stayed safe and healthy, so we’re going to take another crack at this Christmas,” he added. “We believe that with the vaccines and if we follow the science and follow the protocols, I believe we can keep my grandma, once again, safe and healthy.”

Complicating matters is the mystery that surrounds omicron. Scientists now know it spreads fast — perhaps up to three times faster than the delta variant. It also seems to be better at evading vaccines, although boosters rev up protection, particularly against hospitalization and death. But a crucial question remains: Does omicron cause less severe illness than delta? Some research suggests that it does, but the studies are preliminary.

Even if it is milder, omicron could still overwhelm hospitals because of the sheer number of infections. That makes it difficult to know how far to turn down the dial on the festive season.

In the United States, infections average around 149,000 a day, and officials announced this week that omicron dethroned delta as the dominant variant. In Britain, where an omicron-fueled surge is seen as a harbinger for many other European countries, daily cases topped 100,000 for the first time on Tuesday.

KIRO Radio host Gee Scott believes there are a lot of people who want to keep grandma, grandpa, mom and dad safe.

“First, no matter your politics, we want to keep our elderly loved ones safe,” he said. “We might say something else, but our actions say we want to protect our loved ones.”

Producer Matt says “the great thing about having really simple holiday plans is when something goes wrong, you don’t have to change them.”

He does, however, love concerts and travel, both of which have been disrupted by the pandemic.

“At this time, if I had travel plans, I would not be eager to travel,” he noted. “I’m fully vaxxed, but just on a comfort level, I would try to avoid doing it.”

Gee says his eldest son is flying in from Ohio and gets to spend Christmas at home.

“I’m excited that we get to do our Christmas thing on Saturday, which of course is on Christmas, and we’re going to cook,” he said. “I did kind of have to change plans. It’s just going to be our immediate family that we’re going to cook for.”

“And here’s why: I’m vaccinated, I’m boosted, I have all of those things. But I don’t feel comfortable — this is me — I don’t feel comfortable inviting people outside my home over to my house,” he added.

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Gee is fearful of inviting people over who might catch COVID from being there.

“But at the same time, I do want to take the shame out of the possibility of catching COVID. Because you know what? It’s possible,” he said. “It’s possible that you can do all of the right things. It’s possible that you can go somewhere and you don’t know how you caught it. Let’s not be shameful about that. Let’s not be selfish about it as well. If you think you have symptoms, you might want to think about other people.”

“I think it is unfortunate that this is happening, that we are having this variant. But it’s Christmastime, and the most important thing about Christmas for me, in my opinion, it is the ultimate reset for the year,” Gee continued. “Everything that’s gone on, all of the stress that we have gone through in 2021, it’s almost like that very end of the year where you get to celebrate with family.”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Is the omicron variant prompting you to change your holiday plans?