‘Travel can be made safe,’ says state’s top health official

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – As cases of the Omicron variant are continuing to be confirmed in the U.S., President Biden issued new guidelines for travel that will affect plans in the coming weeks.

Mask mandates in transportation centers have gotten an extension from the White House into March 2022, but for Pitt-Greenville Airport leaders, keeping people safe amid holiday COVID surges is really business as usual.

“Since almost the start, we’ve had heightened awareness so really, nothing’s changed,” Bill Hopper, Pitt-Greenville Airport director said.

One week after Thanksgiving, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 3,780 new cases of COVID-19. That figure had not reached that height since early October.

Increased case numbers and the introduction of the Omicron variant to the U.S. have many wondering if they should cancel their plans. Top state health official Dr. Mandy Cohen says there are precautions people can take.

The first thing Cohen said families can do to stay ahead of the spread is to get vaccinated if they have not yet done so. Secondly, she urges all adults to get a booster shot when they are eligible.

Cohen says after that, masking and testing are on their side.

“Make sure that you are doing those layers of protection,” Cohen said.

If you are planning to stay in Eastern Carolina for the holidays, local event planners have taken extra steps to make sure you can still celebrate while staying safe.

“At Greenville Gives, they’ve got a much bigger footprint than they would normally have to be able to space people out,” Andrew Schmidt, Greenville-Pitt County Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director said.

Whether staying home, driving, or flying, local leaders all agree that getting ahead of things is the best way to stay safe.

“Prevention is the key,” Hopper said. “We’ve been very good at it and will continue to be good at it. We’re very fortunate and I think that is just a reflection of the people here in Eastern North Carolina.”

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