COVID-19 surge due to omicron variant impacting testing sites, travel, NYE plans

The surge in COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant is affecting multiple facets of Americans' lives from long lines at testing sites to travel delays to canceled New Year's Eve plans.

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Hundreds of people in the DMV are finding themselves in long lines for COVID-19 testing or scouring sites to find a testing appointment.

Some people showing up at testing sites say they've been in contact with someone who has tested positive and others say they're just taking precautions.

"Just want to get a test, just to be safe," says Arthur Hammond. "I mean I’m fully vaccinated but with this new thing out now one more time won’t hurt nobody." 

The shortage of at-home test kits is partly to blame for the high demand, but an epidemiologist FOX 5's Jacqueline Matter spoke with on Monday says there's more to the story.

READ MORE: Rapid COVID-19 tests in low supply, high demand as cases rise across DMV

"Prior to the omicron variant, we were expecting a winter surge because we knew we would be at a point where vaccine immunity would wane so more people would be susceptible or would be vulnerable to getting infected once exposed and once omicron showed up it sort of made the surge inevitable and made the surge more intense. We now are seeing many more cases than we expected with the delta variant," says professor of global health and epidemiology at George Mason University Dr. Amira Roess.

The increase in testing also comes from many Americans traveling for the holidays and arriving at homes impacted by COVID.

Last-minute flight delays and cancelations are also the result of omicron as staffing shortages within the airline industry have been reported.

There's been nearly 5,500 flight cancelations and more than 6,500 flight delays since Friday.

READ MORE: Airlines cancel, delay thousands more flights due to omicron, staff shortages

"We have a lot of pent-up demand," says travel expert Troy Petenbrink. "For the last two years, folks have been wanting to travel, we’ve had this opportunity, things looked good, we saw that light at the end of the tunnel, and now it's sort of being taken aware from us."

He says travelers can expect these issues to continue through at least mid-January. He stresses the importance of signing up for travel alerts and keeping a close eye on any changes in rules when it comes to vaccines, testing and masks.

Americans hoping to ring in 2022 differently than 2021 are also feeling the effects of the omicron variant as some restaurants, bars and other venues are canceling events as COVID cases rise.

Other establishments are requiring either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to take part in festivities.

READ MORE: New Year's celebrations shelved across the globe as COVID-19 surges, here's who canceled and who hasn't

"I think gatherings this year, it’s going to have to be a small-to-none type thing just because of the variants and how fast they’re spreading again," one FOX 5 viewer said. "I encourage people to stay home if you can. It’s a sucky new year’s, it’s a bad way to bring it in, but you know, gotta stay positive."

Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Monday that Americans should stay away from large New Year's Eve parties due to the spread of the omicron variant.

Dr. Roess says if you're interacting with a small group of people and you all know each other's vaccine status, everyone should agree to get tested before meeting up.


"The way that omicron is spreading, it’s really a good idea to limit your interaction with people outside your normal social circle," she says. "I would say it’s a good idea to avoid large gatherings and large parties because it is inevitable someone will tell you they tested positive shortly after you interacted with them."