Experts warn of 'surge upon surge' of virus as we gear up for another big holiday

Posted at 11:21 PM, Nov 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-29 23:21:11-05

TAMPA, Fla. -- Today typically marks the busiest travel day of the year, but of course during a pandemic, that’s not the case.

Still, tens of thousands of travelers made their way through Tampa International Airport today, wrapping up their Thanksgiving travel.

Now, experts worry this will only cause our COVID-19 cases to increase even more, especially as we gear up for another big holiday.

Doctors did predict a winter surge. More people are headed indoors, and around the holidays, more people are gathering. But with numbers as high as they are already, they worry we could see a surge, on top of surge.

“We don’t want to frighten people, but that’s just the reality,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert.

The CDC reports more than 4-million new COVID-19 cases in the United States during the month of November. That more than doubles the case count from October, which was just under 2-million.

“We said that these things would happen as we got into the cold weather and as we began traveling, and they’ve happened,” said Dr. Fauci.

Now the worry is that cases will continue to spike as we enter the new year.

“If there’s gonna be a Thanksgiving hit, we should see that in about 10 days, then we should see the increase in hospitalizations in about 2 weeks, and then unfortunately an increase in deaths, particularly among older folks, in about 3 weeks,” said Dr. Charles Lockwood, Dean of the USF Morsani College of Medicine.

Dr. Lockwood says the good news in Florida is that despite the increase in cases, we’re not seeing a big increase in hospitalizations.

“Three big reasons, one is, we’re definitely skewing them to a much younger age population,” said Dr. Lockwood.

Reason number two: we’re testing more people, picking up more asymptomatic cases; and three: hospitals are using more antibody treatments.

“Finally, I talk a lot about the dry-kindling hypothesis. We may not have a lot of folks that are incredibly susceptible left, hopefully that’s true,” said Dr. Lockwood.

But leading up to Christmas, he gives a blunt word of advice.

“Don’t travel,” said Dr. Lockwood, he says the worry isn’t so much in the travel itself, “Airports are very safe, flights are very safe,” he said.

But rather the contacts people will make when they get where they’re going.

“We’re at about 25 [cases] per 100,000 [people]. In places like Minnesota, that’s close to 100 per 100,000,” said Dr. Lockwood.

Fearing Floridians may bring the virus back once they land.

Dr. Lockwood expects we’ll see a peak in cases here in Tampa Bay around the first week in February. He predicts that peak could bring about 4,000 new daily cases in the Bay area alone.

“It’s a scary number, and we can do something about it. We should do something about it,” said Dr. Lockwood.

But he says that peak can be significantly smaller if we increase our mask wearing and social distancing even a little. He predicts that with a 10-percent increase in social distancing and mask wearing, that peak could be as low as 1,000 new daily cases in Tampa Bay.