“Travel can be made safe,” says top state health official

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – After cases of the omicron variant have been confirmed in the U.S., President Biden issued new guidelines for travel that will affect your 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,” said executive director of PGV airport, Bill Hopper.

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 omicron to the U.S. has many wondering if they should cancel their plans. Top state health official Dr. Mandy Cohen says there are precautions you can take.

“Travel can be made safe if you do a few things to keep yourselves and others safe,” the Department of Health and Human Services secretary said.

The first thing Dr. Cohen said families can do to stay ahead of the spread is first, get vaccinated if you have not yet done so. Secondly, she urges all adults to get a booster shot if at least six months has passed since their final dose. She says then, masking and testing is on your side.

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

If you are planning to stay in the East for the holiday season, 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,” said executive director of the Greenville-Pitt County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Andrew Schmidt. “Same thing with our Christmas parade tomorrow. The route is a little bit longer than it normally would be. Again, that idea is to social distance and space people out.”

Staying home, driving, or flying, these local leaders all agree that staying ahead is the best way to stay safe.

“Prevention is the key,” said Hopper. “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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