Omicron variant raises travel concerns across the country

The U.S. State Department issued "do not travel" advisories to South Africa and seven nearby countries amid the new Omicron variant spreading throughout the region.

The new warning comes after the World Health Organization called the COVID-19 Omicron variant a "variant of concern." 

Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine in the department at Vanderbilt University, says travel restrictions can help but they're not perfect.

"Because of these unknowns, and the preliminary indications that this is a spreader, these travel restrictions have been put in place," Dr. Schaffner said. "Travel restrictions buy us a little time. Omicron could have snuck into the U.S. or Canada, so it could be in this hemisphere already, starting to spread. It might just take us a little longer to diagnosis it. We don’t know that, but we have to start behaving as though that might be the case."

Some travelers at Orlando International Airport this Thanksgiving weekend say they're planning to be more cautious.

"Seeing that they were coming from D.C., the mask policy is very strong up there. I didn’t worry as much, but now that they’re back here in Florida, we may have to limit our outdoor experiences again," said Jamie David, alongside her two children.

This travel ban comes as travel restrictions were beginning to ease. Some people are worried this could impact future trips.

"Chicago this summer you had to quarantine for a couple of weeks, so I am nervous about that," David said. "We have a couple of trips coming up soon, so I’m wondering how California and New York will handle those kinds of restrictions now with the new variant."

Others say they're thankful they're getting in their trips now.

"Hopefully, we can get the holiday out of the way and get back before anything crazy happens," a traveler at Orlando International Airport said.