Tens of thousands of people in the United States will not spend the holidays with their families but will instead be isolated after contracting Covid-19 during the surge of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
After scientists from University of California, San Francisco, confirmed on December 1 that they had discovered the highly contagious variant in a patient in California, the first such patient in the country he was detected in all 50 states this week, torpedoing dating plans for countless people with Covid and their families.
The variant has skyrocketed cases in the United States, pushing the seven-day average this week to 167,683 cases, more than the peak of the delta variant in early September.
“I wouldn’t have gone to Christmas parties or bars if I had known,” said Charlotte Wynn, 24, a consultant from suburban Boston who recently tested positive. “These things basically don’t make sense in the grand scheme of things if you don’t spend Christmas with your family.”
Emily Maldonado, 27, of New York City, was eagerly awaiting her mother’s visit from Texas this weekend. Maldonado planned to surprise her with tickets to see the Radio City Rockettes and celebrate the holidays together after a grueling pandemic in which they lost three loved ones to Covid-19.
Then Maldonado contracted the virus and his mother decided to cancel his trip.
âIt’s been a long year overall, and I really needed my mom at the end to top it off,â said Maldonado. “And I’m nervous that my mom is getting sick from the spread right now.”
Albert R. Lee, 45, an assistant professor of music at Yale University, said he was nervous about his family reunion after testing positive for Covid on Tuesday evening. He will not come out of his isolation until after Christmas, but he fears his mother will reunite with family members and friends who are not vaccinated.
âMy mom is 70 and I just want to keep her safe,â said Lee, who said he plans to have a conversation with her about limiting gatherings to only those vaccinated and boosted at Christmas.
James Nakajima, 27, from the UK who lives in New York City, said after he and his roommate recently contracted Covid, he was grateful he received a booster.
âI got the boost before I was exposed and didn’t have any symptoms,â he said. âIt was a contrast to my roommate, who had yet to receive the reminder, and he got pretty sick for a few days. It’s anecdotal, but I feel like it protects me.
Nakajima said he postponed his travel plans until the end of his period of isolation and looked forward to replicating his Christmas traditions days later.
“When I come back, I will be able to take great family walks and we will have our meals together,” he said. “I try to move on and not get too carried away by the missed Christmas day.”
Tri Tran, 25, who immigrated to the United States from Vietnam at the age of 11 and didn’t celebrate Christmas growing up, had been overjoyed to experience the holidays for the first time.
âI have no Christmas tradition, but I was planning to go to St. Louis with my partner to celebrate Christmas with his family,â he said.
After getting a positive result on Saturday night, Tran canceled his travel plans.
In what is shaping up to be a frustrating holiday season for many, Lee said he tries to stay positive.
âItâs overwhelming. It’s frustrating. This is not what we expect, âhe said. âBut I think a lot of our suffering comes from resistance to what is. It is what is.
âI just want to move on and stay positive, hopeful and praying for people who might not be vaccinated and who are taking the brunt of the virus,â he said.