Thanksgiving travelers prepare for 'new COVID threat.' It's called HV.1

ByStephanie Sierra KGO logo
Tuesday, November 21, 2023
New COVID wave and what to expect at the airport this holiday
Health officials are warning Thanksgiving travelers of an uptick in COVID cases in the Bay Area including a new variant called "HV.1."

Health officials are warning travelers of an uptick in COVID cases as the US prepares for another 'tripledemic' of COVID, flu and RSV cases.

What to expect

As millions of travelers will pass through airports this week, doctors are urging passengers to wear masks as a new variant is circulating.

"I would certainly wear a mask in the airport and on the plane," said UC San Francisco's Dr. George Rutherford. "Especially if you're going long distance."

Public health officials, including infectious disease experts, expect a surge in cases at various points this holiday season.

AAA Northeast's Robert Sinclair Jr. joins Mornings @ 10 to discuss the upcoming holiday travel season.

"So we unfortunately will expect a bump after Thanksgiving and another bump that continues after the December holidays and then another one after the New Year, realistically speaking," UCSF Dr. Peter Chin-Hong said.

Dr. Chin-Hong explains influenza cases are expected to more than double this winter.

"We're just at the beginning of our influenza season and they will definitely increase," he said. "With RSV, hopefully we won't increase too much more and cases will start coming down."

The new 'HV.1 threat'

All three viruses paired with concern over the country's most dominant and infectious variant yet: HV.1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the latest COVID booster should protect against severe disease of HV.1. But, unvaccinated travelers should be on alert.

"HV.1 one is very transmissible," said Dr. Chin-Hong. "So the things that you might have used as strategies before to escape infection, may not work quite as well anymore."

Historic holiday travel season in the air and on the roads: AAA

Airport travel

In San Francisco Airport alone, 6.3 million passengers are forecasted to travel from Thanksgiving to New Years - which is 87% of pre-pandemic traffic. A surge that airport staff says is impacting parking.

"We're concerned that we might reach capacity over the Thanksgiving holiday," said SFO spokesperson, Doug Yakel. "So think about some alternate ways of getting to the airport."

MORE: Why you should wait a few days before taking an at-home COVID test if you're sick

The next busiest day for both airports will be this Wednesday, Nov. 22. SFO is expecting around 144,000 people coming through that day.

If you're traveling domestically, it's recommended you arrive two hours before your flight. For international flights, it's recommended to arrive at least three hours before takeoff.

How to get COVID tests delivered to your home

You can also get more free COVID tests delivered right to your home. The government is offering another round of four test kits ahead of the expected winter surge. According to the website, consumers can get as many as eight tests, if you didn't receive any in September. To order, click here.

More free COVID-19 tests from the government are available for home delivery through the mail

As people get together for the holiday season, we may see higher levels of respiratory illness.