MIAMI – As people prepare for holiday gatherings, the COVID-19 omicron variant is driving up cases from coast to coast.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line confirmed 48 people on its Symphony of the Seas cruise, which ended Saturday in Miami, tested positive for COVID-19.
All who tested positive were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms, the cruise line said.
Also in South Florida, citing an increase in transmission of the omicron variant, the iHeartRadio Y100 Jingle Ball was canceled.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Cabinet has approved putting the United States and Canada on their coronavirus travel red list due to omicron variant concerns.
Ori Yehezkely is on her way to Israel to see family before that decision was finalized.
“With the spike in cases everywhere and the quarantine in Israel, it is just not practical anymore,” she said.
Her sister Keren chose to stay behind given the dynamic nature of international travel right now.
“That was also a big concern that we would not be able to get back here and I have college in January,” Keren Yehezkely said.
The rise in cases, at least for now, does not appear to be putting a stop to the holiday travel plans for many.
The Transportation Security Administration reported that more than 2,000,000 passengers were screened for the third straight day on Sunday.
The American Automobile Association is anticipating there will be nearly as many people traveling for the holidays this year as there were in 2019. That was before Covid and before the threat of contagion disrupted traditional family gatherings.
Air travel has nearly tripled since last year, and as pandemic-weary Americans take to the skies and roads to visit family and friends, infectious disease experts say the delta variant remains a risk, as is the new and highly transmissible omicron variant.
Cases of omicron have been steadily on the rise.
Trying to get ahead of the familiar cadence to spikes — first a jump in infections proceeded by upticks in hospitalizations and covid-related deaths — infectious disease experts continue to advocate for vaccination.
“The Moderna and the beyond tech Pfizer vaccine do a phenomenal job of protecting us from severe disease, especially if you get that booster,” said Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert at Florida International University. “That booster makes a huge difference.”
When it comes to masks, they are still required in the airport and on planes, and remain a CDC recommended, non-partisan public health case mitigation tool to help tamp down on community transmission, especially when indoors or around a lot of people.
“I think it’s the responsible thing for all of us as citizens to do right now, is to be mindful of what our infection can do to others as well,” Marty said. “And that’s another reason the mask up in congregate settings.”
The sentiment was shared by Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, during an appearance on Local 10′s This Week in South Florida.
“We’re strongly advising masking,” she said. “We have signs around that encourage on our premises.”