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Woman’s tweet sparks debate on Covid testing family before holiday gatherings

Woman’s tweet sparks debate on Covid testing family before holiday gatherings
Most travelers are continuing with their holiday travel plans despite warnings about the omicron variant

Coronavirus politicisation has infiltrated the holiday season, causing some families to choose to stay apart rather than congregate due to disagreements over how seriously to take the virus.

For one woman, writer Cassandra Basler, requesting that her family members take rapid tests before gathering, got her disinvited from her family’s festivities.

“How politicised is Omicron in Michigan? I asked my family if we could all take at-home rapid tests before visiting indoors on Christmas,” she wrote in a now-viral tweet. “Then I was simply uninvited.”

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has caused renewed alarm among officials and the American public, as health officials predict a new wave of infections will sweep the country in coming weeks. According to the US Centers for Disease Control, Omicron is now the most dominant Covid-19 variant in the US, accounting for 73 per cent of new infections ending the week of 18 December.

Health officials believe the Omicron variant is generally a more mild strain, but that it spreads far faster than previous iterations. Data from the week prior to 18 December showed that Omicron was only detected in 13 per cent of new cases, illustrating the speed at which the virus can move through the population.

Responses to Ms Basler’s situation were varied. Some were appalled at her family’s reaction, while others felt she was asking too much of her family members.

Others shared similar experiences of family turmoil fuelled by disagreements over the virus. One user asked other commenters for advice for “deradicalising conspiracy theorist family members.” Another said they and their son had not spoken since March due to the son’s belief in conspiracy theories.

In response to Omicron wave, Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that the administration will provide free at-home rapid tests to individuals who request them.

The White House released a statement on Monday assuring vaccinated individuals would be protected from the Omicron variant, but warned the unvaccinated that they are still very much at risk.

“[The Omicron variant is] here now, and it’s spreading, and it’s going to increase … We are looking at a winter of severe illness and death for the unvaccinated – for themselves, their families and the hospitals they’ll soon overwhelm,” the White House statement said. “But there’s good news: If you’re vaccinated, and you have your booster shot, you’re protected from severe illness and death.”

The virus is likely to spread quickly over the holiday season as families gather to celebrate. According to the Transportation Security Administration, approximately 21m passengers were screened during the 10-day Thanksgiving holiday, and the agency expects to see similar numbers of travelers around Christmas.

According to The Denver Post, the Denver International Airport is expecting to see between 2.7 and 2.9m passengers passing through the airport between now and 3 January.

An analysis conducted by airfare scanner Scott’s Cheap Flights revealed that 87 per cent of Americans have not changed their travel plans, while 10 per cent have cancelled or postponed their holiday trips.

According to the data collected, 27 per cent of individuals who were unsure of their holiday travel plans have since decided not to travel, while 45 per cent are still undecided.