Christmas morning is just hours away and hope for the new year may rely on avoiding holiday gatherings as the rates of coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations soar.
Public health officials say what we do over the next few days could make all the difference in helping to curb another COVID-19 surge.
UCSD specialist Dr. Paul Schalch Lepe hasn't lost his Christmas spirit but says a change in how we celebrate the holidays is overdue.
"What is different about this Christmas?... It's basically the number of positive cases out there," Schalch Lepe said. "Now we are going to create a sort of a wave on top of another wave that is just going to compound the number of cases more.”
Mask wearing, distancing and hand washing are effective, but because of the surge in COVID cases, people are more likely to have contact with the virus, Schalch Lepe said.
"The main fear here is that there will be no hospital capacity to accommodate that surge on top of a surge," Schalch Lepe said.
The CDC offers a few things to consider before hosting or attending any gathering.
- Community levels of COVID-19 infections where you and your guests.live
- Exposure during travel
- Duration of the gathering
- The number of attendees
Schalch Lepe said that the vaccines that have been distributed could help with an impending surge.
"If we can protect that health care force and build enough capacity for the surge, then we might manage it to a certain extent,” Schalch Lepe said.
COVID-19 burnout is working against us. Schalch Lepe said the holidays are the hardest to give up.
"Cherish your health,” Schalch Lepe said. "Appreciate that you are healthy and can be with your immediate family and keep them healthy as well."
The CDC offers a few suggestions for celebrations of people under the same roof: Wear disposable gloves for routine cleaning, and clean surfaces with soap and water then spray with disinfectant. Also, if someone in the house is sick, keep them in a separate bedroom and bathroom if possible.