Tens of thousands of people in the U.S. won’t be spending the holidays with their families but will instead be stuck in isolation after they contracted Covid-19 during the surge of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
After scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, confirmed on Dec. 1 that they had discovered the highly contagious variant in a patient in California, the first such patient in the country, it has been detected in all 50 states as of this week, torpedoing plans for get-togethers for countless Covid sufferers and their families.
The variant has sent cases skyrocketing in the U.S., pushing the seven-day average this week to 167,683 cases, higher 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 the Boston suburbs who recently tested positive. “Those things are essentially meaningless in the grand scheme of things if you don’t get to spend Christmas with your family.”
Emily Maldonado, 27, of New York City, was looking forward to her mother’s visiting from Texas this weekend. Maldonado planned to surprise her with tickets to see the Radio City Rockettes and celebrate the holiday together after a grueling pandemic in which they lost three loved ones to Covid-19.
Then Maldonado contracted the virus, and her mother decided to cancel her trip.
“It’s been a long year in general, and I really needed my mom at the end to cap it off,” Maldonado said. “And I’m nervous about my mom getting sick with it spreading right now.”
Albert R. Lee, 45, an adjunct professor of music at Yale University, said he is nervous about his family gathering after he tested positive for Covid on Tuesday night. He won’t be out of isolation until after Christmas, but he is concerned that his mother might get together with friends who aren’t vaccinated.
“My mom is in her 70s, and I just want to keep her safe,” said Lee, who said he plans to have a conversation with her about limiting gatherings to only vaccinated and boosted people on Christmas.
James Nakajima, 27, a U.K. native who lives in New York, said that after he and his roommate contracted Covid recently, he was grateful that he had gotten a booster shot.
“I had the boost before I got exposed, and I’ve had no symptoms,” he said. “That was a contrast to my roommate, who hadn’t yet gotten the booster, and he got pretty sick for a few days. That’s anecdotal, but I feel like it’s protecting me.”
Nakajima said that he has postponed his travel plans until his isolation period is over and that he is looking forward to replicating his Christmas traditions a couple of days later.
“When I do get to fly back, I’ll get to go on nice family walks, and we’ll eat meals together,” he said. “I’m trying to look forward and not get too caught up in missing Christmas Day.”
Tri Tran, 25, who immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam when he was 11 years old and didn’t celebrate Christmas growing up, had been excited to experience the holiday for the first time.
“I don’t have any Christmas tradition, but I was planning on going to St. Louis with my partner to celebrate Christmas with her family,” he said.
After he got a positive result Saturday night, Tran canceled his travel plans.
In what is shaping up to be a frustrating holiday season for many, Lee said he is trying to stay positive.
“This is upsetting. This is frustrating. This is not what we plan,” he said. “But I think so much of our suffering is from resisting what is. It is what is.
“I just want to press through and remain positive and hopeful and prayerful for those people who might not be vaccinated and are dealing with the full brunt of the virus,” he said.