Public health officials issue holiday warning as COVID-19 cases surge

Posted at 9:03 PM, Dec 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-04 22:33:11-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - As healthcare workers wait on the potential surge of COVID-19 cases stemming from Thanksgiving, Virginia’s public health experts have a warning this holiday season.

“COVID is still here in Virginia, and cases are surging,” said Dr. Vanessa Walker Harris, the Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Resources for Gov. Ralph Northam.

The governor’s office is urging everyone to keep holiday celebrations small this season.

“The safest way to spend the holidays this year is to stay at home,” Walker Harris said. “It’s hard, but it’s the best way to protect you and your family.”

Walker Harris recommends celebrating virtually and said ignoring the governor’s 25-person limit on gatherings is what’s driving the COVID-19 surge.

“People are gathering more with friends and family members who are not members of their household, and the cooler temperatures are driving us more indoors, and that’s where it’s easier for the virus to pass from person to person,” she said. “It’s a mixture of those circumstances that’s particularly concerning as we move more into the winter holiday season. We understand that people are tired of the pandemic, and they really just want to get together with family and friends.”

As the state hits record levels of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, public health officials said it’s more important than ever to follow the health measures, which will prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed with patients.

“Simple measures like hand washing, keeping your distance and wearing masks will help us to stop the spread of the virus, which means we can keep from overcoming the hospital capacity,” Walker Harris said. “We were able to flatten the curve earlier this year in the spring, and we can do so again through the holiday season if we employ these measures.”

Walker Harris couldn’t say if Virginia is headed toward another lockdown; she said that would be up to the governor. Meantime, she’s stressing that everyone follows the safety guidelines, because the general public won’t see a vaccine widely available until the summer.

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