tv ABC7 News Getting Answers ABC November 29, 2021 3:00pm-3:31pm PST
call today or ask your agent about scan health plan. >> building a better bay moving forward, finding solutions abc7. this is abc7 news. kristen: i hope you had a good thanksgiving. news getting answers. we are diving into the latest developments surrounding the latest covid-19 variant, omicron . we talk about the travel bans that kicked in today and what you need to know about international travel. there are lots of questions about the omicron variants, how dangerous it is and what is being done to stop the spread. we have an infectious disease
specialist. thank you for your time. hope you had a nice thanksgiving. guest: i did, thank you. i hope you did also. kristen: i did, but the reprieve is over. we are all concerned about omicron. we saw a statement that california is closely monitoring the omicron variance, which has not yet arrived in california or the u.s. as of the last hour, that was still omicron the case. but omicron is already in africa and canada. is it only a matter of time? before we discover a case here? guest: yes. every hour we are updated on cases of omicron around the world. recently we heard of a case in germany. that follows the playbook of many of these variants. by the time we figure it out, the cat is out of the proverbial bag. kristen: how would we discover
it? is it through genetic sequencing? guest: we only genetic sequence 1% to 2% of those cases. it takes two weeks to three weeks. we are lagging many countries in terms of cases. we have the technology to sequence everyone multiple times, but we don't have the coordinated willpower to do it. i think there is a new test that is easier to do. that may be implemented for rapid screening for omicron. it is whether or not we would implement that or not. kristen: if you have questions, please ask. let me ask you about this variance. we know it has at least 50 mutations, 32 on the spike protein, the part of the virus that enters human cells. ? what does that mean? dr. chin-hong: -- human cells.
what does that mean? dr. chin-hong: the antibodies we developed may not recognize this new, misshapen spike protein from a new enemy. also, monoclonal antibody therapies may not recognize it as well. the other part is, it is also the place where it attaches to the cells. if you make it stickier, it could be more transmissible. kristen: that makes it sound like more mutations means more transmissible. is that necessarily the case? dr. chin-hong: no. we don't necessarily understand what happens. remember lambda, everyone worried it would leave south america and overrun the world
and that never happened. we worried about one in colombia and ecuador, but it never happens. we even worried about epsilon when alpha was coming up in california and it never left california. a lot of times these regional viruses may go around the world, but never become dominant. we never understand what makes one dominant over the other. when you look at delta versus the rest, it is at least 2.5 times more transmissible than the variance. transmissibility trumps everything else. kristen: does it trump everything else? what about the severe illness part? will we know whether this variance is likely to cause severe illness? dr. chin-hong: that is a great question, one we don't know the full answer to yet.
the initial reports, it is not causing droves of people to go to the hospital in south africa. it is mainly affecting younger individuals so far, ages 18 to 35. they are mainly university students in one province of south africa. only about 25% are vaccinated, which is the national rate. you may get a mild illness. we have not seen it in the older population or immunocompromised. kristen: it does seem the reaction is more severe, from the way the stock markets reacted, really tanking, to the immediate travel bans. from a medical trance -- standpoint, does it scream danger, or are we being cautious? dr. chin-hong: i think everybody had ptsd when alpha was
dominant. it took a long time to nip alpha in the bud. the next ptsd moment was with delta. we saw cases in india went from zero to 50% to 75% and it went to the u.k. and the rest of the world. people are trying to react quickly, even before a greek alphabet letter. the stock market is being responsive. kristen: we have so many great questions coming in. the cdc strengthening its relation to boosters, lori wants to know, do you recommend boosters for people who have already had covid? address that from the safety standpoint and allowing for mutations. dr. chin-hong: to get a booster, even if you
had gnashed -- natural covid. in south africa, many of the people who got infected with omicron were reinfected. because many were not vaccinated yet, they got reinfected with omicron. if a natural infection with omicron is not good enough, you should get vaccinated. kristen: does it also play a role? just individuals making the choice to get vaccinated, even if they have already recovered and have immunity, in terms of the big picture, affecting mutations and new strains? dr. chin-hong: yes, exactly. the longer you have virus transmission occurring, higher the probability of mutations.
the longer that one particular virus stays in one person, the higher the chance of mutation. you take south africa, it has a highly unvaccinated population, but also a high proportion of individuals with hiv disease. immunocompromised plus lots of virus around could lead to more mutations. leading to the point, to really stop all of this locally, getting vaccinated, getting boosted, is the only way out. we want to focus on the future. kristen: how do so many mutations occur in one variant? does it suggest anything about the host, the person it came from, their immunocompromised status? dr. chin-hong: many scientists believe this variance has so many mutations, more than 50, 30
in the spike protein, came from one individual who was probably sitting with this virus for weeks and could not get rid of it. the more you stay in the same body, it makes more of itself, the higher the chances of mutation. think of mutations as the host trying to reproduce. that is probably how it escaped. we have other cases in the u.s. with immuno compromised individuals who keep the virus in themselves for longer because they cannot get rid of it, and that leads to a lot of mutations. that is one of the proposals. kristen: don't go away. we will continue our conversation after a short break.
kristen: we are back with dr. peter chin-hong, talking about omicron. the cdc strengthens its recommendation for boosters in the wake of this variance. what is the language? everyone 18 and older if you got your original shots six months ago, go get that? dr. chin-hong: yes. don't worry about who needs the boost. with the specter of variants like omicron, if you are over 18 and got your shot more than six months ago, get a booster. same with j&j. kristen: erica says, how concerned should we be with the latest mutation for children in the 12-year-old to 17-year-old age group? will they be able to get boosters soon? dr. chin-hong: right now, no plans to get that age group boosted.
first of all, gotten shots relatively recently. i think they will be protected. as long as the rest of us get protected, they will be fine. i feel like the virus vaccine will settle to a three shot deal, just like hepatitis b. we are in evolution to that point. kristen: do you think we will need one specific to the omicron variant? president biden says he is working with pfizer and moderna. should it become necessary. what do you think? dr. chin-hong: i think it will get to that point. it will take 100 days or so. they will cut and paste of the new code. the question will be how long it will take to rule it out. kristen: holly has a good question. if this new variant proves to be mild and more transmissible,
would it infect more people like a common cold and create herd immunity? dr. chin-hong: possibly. that is what some pundits think is happening with covid overall, that it will become milder with each successive generation, and at some point everyone will get it. you will have the vaccine, get natural exposure, and a hybrid immunity will take us out of this bog or quagmire we are in right now. kristen: dr. fauci, president biden and california state health officials said they would double down on people getting vaccinated and boosted. you have people like yolanda who say, why get a shot if you will catch it anyway? dr. chin-hong: there are so many reasons to get a shot. it is predictable. we don't know if you are unvaccinated how sick you will get. there have been so many
30-year-olds who were unvaccinated who ended up in the i.s. -- ended up in the icu, some of whom died. do not play virus russian roulette. i encourage you to get vaccinated, not just for now, but for future things. kristen: the u.s. has a travel ban on south africa and other countries in the region. many other countries have followed suit. there is a lot of talk about whether this is effective, enough, or does it need to be accompanied by pcr testing of every international traveler or a vaccine requirement? dr. chin-hong: it is an interesting measure. it has not worked when we tried it with china, but we were hampered by lack of diagnostics. it did not work with alpha because we were too late.
it did not work with the delta, may be again because we were too late. that is why everyone jumped on omicron. the cat is already out of the bag. it was probably going on for weeks and tons of travel occurred already between southern africa and the rest of the world. kristen: we will know more in a couple weeks. should omicron affect christmas plans? dr. chin-hong: it should not affect what we are planning to do. we have waited so long for this moment. we have not seen relatives and friends for so long. if you are boosted and vaccinated, no worries. if you are unvaccinated, please navigate the world carefully. kristen: always great talking to you. thank you for the insight. president biden will be outlining his winter covid plans on thursday. hopefully we will talk more then.
the u.s. is imposing a new travel ban from south africa and seven other countries. dozens have done the same over concerns of the omicron variance. what does it mean for american travelers and will it impact airfare around christmas? we have a guest joining us, scott. i hope you had a great thanksgiving. scott: thank you for having me. kristen: the u.s. is imposing as travel ban on south africa and other countries. i read that delta and united would keep flying, which is confusing. help us learn what this means. scott: the flights will continue for the time being because u.s. citizens and legal permanent residents of the u.s. are allowed to fly back to the u.s. if they are in any of those
affected south african countries. if you are not a u.s. citizen or legal permanent resident, you are not allowed on those flights currently. for the time being, the flights are still flying. kristen: americans can come back, but can we start a new trip to those countries? scott: i guess you would be able to get on a plane to those countries tomorrow if you would like to. i would suspect few people are making that trip. it has been the case as it was early in the pandemic that u.s. citizens are still allowed to come and go. you will need to take the recent negative test before getting to the u.s., but you are still allowed to return as a u.s. citizen. kristen: for returning u.s. citizens, what is the requirement? is there a test, vaccine proof? scott: it varies depending on your vaccine status. if vaccinated, you go by the old
rules with three days before your trip to the u.s. where you take a test and show that to the airline officials. if you have not been vaccinated, that window decreases to one day in order to fly back to the u.s.. this is one way to not only encourage folks to get vaccinated, but try to make sure everyone stays as safe as possible and prevents further infection. kristen: a few countries are going further. israel, morocco, japan, outright banning all foreigners. that is a move we have not seen since early in the pandemic. scott: these broad travel restrictions are taking place in a handful of countries. most countries are in wait and see mode. as scientists explore how bad is omicron, what does it look like and what impact does it have. for the most part, if this new
variant plays out like delta, we can expect a handful of countries putting blanket travel bans in place while most others wreck -- welcome vaccinated travelers. unvaccinated folks may face hurdles, delays, or cannot visit certain countries. perhaps some countries require c recent negative test. unless this turns out to be severe, i expect most countries to welcome vaccinated travelers. kristen: it has only had a name for four days, but has a chilling effect on things like the stock market. i wonder if you are seeing a dampening of enthusiasm to travel. have bookings slowed? scott: it is early to show up in the data. you have not seen airlines react with any significant schedule
changes, but i think one data point you have seen as a direct result is in the flight searche done by leisure travelers. we saw over the weekend a modest dip in the number of domestic flight searches, but a big drop in the number of people searching for international trips. that tells us people are being more cautious about traveling overseas, in wait and see mode. still comfortable and eager to travel domestically because they feel more safe or they know there is not the same risk of having to quarantine for a week or two if you were getting a negative test. you wouldn't have the same results in arizona, florida, chicago. kristen: airlines are concerned they won't get passengers
know airlines are concerned they won't get passengers when they lower prices. scott: this is happening in the backdrop of the holiday weekend with cyber monday, black friday. that is absolutely right. this will be a tell if we see a big drop in the number of bookings and if airlines feel they need to pull out all the stops to get new bookings. the upshot is you will see significant fare reductions and sales to entice people back into airplanes. kristen: vivian posted an interesting comment on facebook live, our son will be doing study abroad in finland. he is vaccinated and boosted, but we got travelers insurance just in case. is travelers insurance a good idea and does it cover things
related to covid? scott: some does, some does not. always read the fine print, especially with something like coronavirus. certain policies might cover you in case you get sick, and are not able to take the trip. for most travel insurance, it is not card blanche to stash is not carte reason. usually it reimburses 70% of your trip costs. the other thing to be aware of, all major airlines, setting aside the budget airlines, all giving automatic free flexibility so when you book a new flight on most airlines, you can change your travel dates
later without having to pay the normal $300 penalty. this does not apply to basic economy tickets. you have that flexibility in a way you did not before to make your travel pant -- plans in pencil. kristen: they started that during the pandemic and kept it up. where was the travel industry before omicron made headlines last week. had it bounced back? was it close? i know the thanksgiving travel volume was close to pre-pandemic. scott: things have been rebounding quickly for the travel industry and airline industry. yesterday we saw the highest number of travelers, two .5 million, since the pandemic began. we saw airplanes more full than they had in the same week in 2019. that is indicative of people excited to travel again, being
able to get booster shots and feel more comfortable getting out. that is all data from pre-omicron. we will see how this shows up later this week and next week and what the scientists conclude about how bad this variant ends up being. kristen: scott, don't go away. kristen: scott, don't go away. ♪ ♪ increased transportation benefits. one more thing you can rely on. one of many cost-saving medicare advantage benefits from scan health plan for 2022. call today, or ask your agent about scan health plan.
more savings with more $0 prescriptions and low maximum out of pocket costs. for more carefree moments. one of many cost-saving medicare advantage benefits from scan health plan for 2022. call today, or ask your agent about scan health plan. scott: thank you. kristen: thank you so much for joining us on this interactive show, getting answers. we will be here every weekday at 3:00 for you on air and livestream. today we address questions regarding the omicron variant
and latest travel bans. world news is next. we will be back at 4:00 for the news. tonight, breaking news. what we know so far on this new variant. the president and dr. ant knit fauci and what they said today from the white house. the omicron variant, the world health organization labeling it a variant of concern. president biden today telling americans the new variant is a, quote, cause for concern, not a cause for panic. tonight here, the latest on confirmed cases now, including canada. dr. anthony fauci and dr. jha, you'll hear from them both here tonight. and the key questions -- this is variant more transmissible, could it be more dangerous, and most importantly, will the vaccines and the boosters work? tonight, your questions answered right here. also tonight, for the first time, we're seeing evidence made public in the investigation of former new york governor andrew