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Holiday travel tips to keep you safe as Omicron looms

“We don't want to see the big surge that can happen mid-January that we saw last year…” said Robert Hawkes.

TAMPA, Fla. — Airports across the nation and in the Tampa Bay area are expected to be busy this holiday season as travelers are anxious to be with their loved ones after a tough year.

However, the threat of an Omicron variant surge raises concern for doctors and healthcare workers who say although travel is a risk, it can be done safely.

“We don't want to see the big surge that can happen mid-January that we saw last year…” said Robert Hawkes, director of the Florida Gulf Coast University physician assistant program.

He says vaccines, boosters and testing can help slow the spread, although demand for testing has put a strain on supply.

“There's certainly tests available but they're certainly in more short supply right now,” he said.

In Hillsborough County alone, workers have done more than 6,700 tests at its county-run site in West Tampa.

RELATED: Which treatments are effective against the Omicron variant?

Another concern beyond the flight is the destination. According to Tampa International Airport, New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Boston are TPA’s top four markets. Some of those destinations are seeing COVID-19 cases increase dramatically.

“The northeast corner, so that would include New York and Boston, are seeing a pretty large surge right now,” said Hawkes.

The new wave of cases with Omicron has driven interest in the newly-FDA authorized COVID-19 antiviral pills, but experts say they aren’t a shortcut to avoid vaccines and boosters.

RELATED: Traveling for Christmas? Current mask rules, testing and quarantine policies by state

“This pill isn't designed to be made available to everyone,” he said. “You just will not be able to walk into your pharmacy and get the pill. So, it's very important to get your vaccine so that you don't get sick and don't get into the hospital.”

Local pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS are still doing last-minute testing, but an appointment is necessary. There are other walk-up sites through local counties and the health department, but holiday hours could impact availability.

You can find more information on testing in your area below: 

County Sites:


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