Surge in COVID-19 cases a concern ahead of the holidays, health experts say

Published: November 12, 2020 10:40 PM EST
Updated: November 13, 2020 4:20 PM EST

Hopping on a plane or hitting the road to go see family for the holidays is tradition for many. But with a surge in COVID-19 cases nationwide, doctors say you should think twice about the risks of celebrating with the ones you love this year.

Coronavirus cases continue to surge across the country. We are recording more than 100,000 new COVID-19 cases a day as a nation.

We learned the skyrocketing cases are likely caused by small get-togethers and game nights. Experts say this is concerning with Thanksgiving right around the corner.

We know thanksgiving is a time when family and friends gather, but the doctor we spoke to says even a small family gathering risks the spread of COVID-19, especially if you have to travel by plane to get there or if you’re a college student returning home from campus.

“I’m seeing an increase in cases from small gatherings, from people being in close proximity indoors,” said Dr. Rebekah Bernard, the president of Collier County Medical Society. “I am worried that we are going to see a significant increase in COVID cases after Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas as well.”

Experts worry some of those cases could come from college students returning home for the holidays.

“College students seem to be getting a little bit more sick than younger kids, and that means that they tend to have a higher viral load and therefore they are more likely to transmit that viral infection to other people,” Bernard said.

Some FGCU students are concerned about the impacts of Thanksgiving gatherings on the spread of the virus within families and on campus.

“I am more worried about them getting sick and like on their way to and from their families,” FGCU student Caitlyn Newman said. “In case if they do get sick, they bring it here on accident without realizing it.”

Other students say they are taking some precautions before they go home to try to protect themselves and their family.

“Since I’m going to be on a plane, I want to make sure I don’t have COVID before and then coming back to the university,” FGCU student Emma Kurtenbach said. “I want to make sure I don’t have it, so I’ll take another test too.”

“I usually only hang out with just my roommates,” FGCU student Keara Schilling.

Cities including Chicago have already issued a stay-at-home advisory and new restrictions on gatherings ahead of the holidays. If you decide to travel or celebrate in groups, Bernard says it’s especially important to consider the vulnerability of the people you’re visiting before you go, and she said the best thing you can do to prepare is to self-quarantine.

“When I say self-isolate, I mean try to minimize your contact with other people in close proximity, wear your mask, do very good handwashing and definitely avoid any close encounters like bars, perhaps restaurants or anywhere that you may be exposed to a large number of other people,” Bernard said.