Santa was outside Macy’s in Herald Square Friday night, but it's a Grinch on the minds of many holiday shoppers — a Grinch that comes in the form of climbing COVID cases just before Christmas.
"I'm running around with a F52 mask and being triple shot, I should be safe," said Meggy Schmike, who is visiting the city from Austria. "But of course I am worried about the situation."
Despite the trepidation on city streets, travelers are still taking to the skies at airports. There aren't any signs — yet — that the rising cases have impacted people's decision to travel.
AAA estimates airlines are seeing nearly three times the number of passengers compared to last year, and it projects 100 million people will travel 50 miles or more over the holidays, whether they are driving or flying.
Health officials pushing a familiar message, encouraging vaccines and boosters for all eligible. For those that have already checked those off, there are are other questions — like are small gatherings ok?
"You can get together with your relatives over the holidays. Adding rapid (COVID) tests will make that even safer," said Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo, of the John Hopkins School of Public Health.
What about indoor dining at restaurants?
"Everything we’re going to be doing involves individuals risk tolerance, and some people might determine that certain exposures just aren't worth it," Dr. Nuzzo said.
As for what unvaccinated people should do, Nuzzo said it would be similar to the holidays last year or early in 2021: Use masks, get COVID tests and take other precautions.
The most important measure for those unvaccinated folks to do, Nuzzo says, would be to reconsider getting vaccinated as the countdown to Christmas and the new year gets closer. Health experts also recommend getting tested before and after gatherings with family and friends.
"Most people are wearing masks as compared to many other areas ... But you can't stop people from getting together," said Schmike.