PINELLAS COUNTY — For months officials have warned about avoiding large gatherings to stop the spread of COVID-19 but now a reminder of what can happen when even a few people get together.
Pinellas County leaders say we are entering a critical period in the fight against COVID-19 and it could easily reach a point where our health care system is overwhelmed.
“We understand people are tired. You can see that if you went on the website and saw all the New Year’s Eve parties and things like that and they want to get back to normal," said Pinellas County administrator Barry Burton.
Health experts say the rising numbers we are seeing are from gatherings that happened in October and November and we still haven’t reached the effects of small Christmas gatherings.
“We see the pictures of those gatherings of folks I think that most of us will think they are being really careful. We see the pictures of the gatherings and it’s not hard to see why the numbers are going up," said Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice.
Pinellas County is averaging 536 cases a day.
And those numbers are expected to keep rising until next month.
“Those small groups may consist of young healthy people who are going out and having a good time. And they are giving it to other young healthy people who become asymptomatic and don’t know they are spreading it," said Dr. Jay Wolfson with USF Health.
Dr. Wolfson says we can’t let our guard down even if you are vaccinated.
And we still don’t know if even those who are vaccinated can be COVID-19 carriers and give it to others.
“The vaccine is that wonderful light at the end of the tunnel. But there are some trains coming up behind us from Christmas and New Years' and plus our letting our guard down. We just have to be careful," said Wolfson.