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

Stephanie Sierra Image
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."

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Health officials are warning travelers of an uptick in COVID cases as the Bay Area prepares for another 'tripledemic' of COVID, flu and RSV cases.

What to expect

As hundreds of thousands of travelers will pass through Bay Area 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 UCSF's Dr. George Rutherford. "Especially if you're going long distance."

According to ABC7's COVID tracker, hospitalizations remain low across the Bay Area. But public health officials, including infectious disease experts, expect a surge in cases at various points this holiday season.

MORE: New mask mandates begin at Bay Area hospitals in attempt to prevent another 'tripledemic'

"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's Dr. Peter Chin-Hong told ABC7 News.

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."

Airport travel

Masks are optional at the San Francisco Airport, but still highly recommend to be safe. SFO is forecasting 6.3 million passengers to travel through 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."

Meanwhile, at the Oakland Airport, non-reserved parking is already limited.

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

"We project over 360,000 passengers will pass through the airport between the last Friday and Monday," said David DeWitt, a spokesperson for the Port of Oakland. "That's 85% of pre-pandemic traffic."

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.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live