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Health experts urge precautions for winter holidays

Posted at 11:06 PM, Dec 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-04 23:27:31-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Health experts are urging families to take precautions and make plans now for upcoming winter holidays.

This week, the CDC recommended postponing travel and staying home. Though it doesn’t eliminate the risk, the CDC said if someone does travel, they recommend they get tested 1-3 days beforehand, and again 3-5 days after, combined with reducing non-essential activities for a full 7 days after travel.

“Start planning now. First obviously if you can do it virtually that’s the best thing. If that’s not an option you know the next step is if you don’t have to travel please don’t travel,” said Dr. Nishant Anand, the Executive Vice President and chief medical officers for BayCare Health System. “If you do get tested as we talked about previously. If you are going to have a gathering try to keep it as small as possible and if you do need to have dinners and meals have family together then outside.”

Anand said he himself is celebrating the holidays with just immediate family, connecting virtually with others.

He also said while there is an end in sight with potential vaccines, now is the time to remain vigilant. That includes social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks.

“We’re starting to see COVID cases increase and it’s not just people testing positive throughout the community people have been admitted to the hospital as well so we are seeing COVID come back unfortunately again,” he said.

Anand said they’re seeing more people test positive than can be explained by just the amount of testing.

“The last thing you want to see is a doctor coming to you telling you you have to go onto the vent. You might not wake up. So I would recommend to everybody please follow the CDC guidelines,” said Leonardo Begazo, the clinic manager in the blood draw area at Moffitt Cancer Center.

Begazo and his family members battled COVID-19 earlier this year. Both he and his wife ended up in the ICU with Begazo having to spend time on a ventilator.

“I feel so thankful to God to be here today but I can see the difference with for example my breathing, my respiration is not at the same capacity it used to be in the past,” he said.

This year, Begazo said he canceled Thanksgiving plans and will be taking precautions throughout the winter holidays, too.

“Perhaps this Thanksgiving we couldn’t get together, perhaps this Christmas we won’t be together all of us, but I want to be the next Christmas. I want to celebrate next Christmas and next Thanksgiving, so this year I’m taking all of the precautions,” he said.

A USF professor is looking at the impact of social measures. He looks at a model that uses current data to forecast the virus’ trends in the Tampa Bay area.

“We are getting into the exponential phase of the coming wave and if we maintain current social measures then we might get about 4,800 cases daily cases infected cases at the peak which might occur around Feb. 22nd and that peak is much larger than the peak that occurred during the summer,” said Edwin Michael, a professor of epidemiology in the College of Public Health.

Michael said if social measures were relaxed by 10 percent, the peak could reach 11,000 cases per day in mid-January. However, if 10 percent more people took on social measures, like wearing face masks, it could begin to flatten the curve.