Doctors fear post-holiday surge coming after heavy travel weekend

NOW: Doctors fear post-holiday surge coming after heavy travel weekend

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Nearly 1.3 million people passed through airport security in the U.S. on Sunday, Dec. 27, according to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. The number is the highest it’s been since mid-March. Now, area health officials are concerned at the thought of another surge here in the state.

If you were one of the 1.3 million people, or even attended an in-person gathering for Christmas with people outside of your household, doctors say you should be quarantining right now.

“At a minimum we’d want you to quarantine for at least 7 days, but 10 is probably better,” said Dr. Jeff Pothof, chief quality officer with UW Health.

After the quarantine period, Dr. Pothof says people should get tested, but he’s concerned some may violate quarantine with how the holidays are lining up. Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations are less than a week apart.

“If you got exposed during Christmas, it is very likely that you are the most contagious if you have COVID-19 for New Year’s,” Dr. Pothof added. “So now anyone who did a Christmas celebration who managed to contract the disease, if they also do a New Year’s celebration it’s pretty likely that they’ll be shedding virus at that point.”

“Anytime there’s a gathering, of course we worry for a spread in cases,” said Dr. Ben Weston, medical director for the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

With COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations down, and news of a vaccine coming out, area doctors fear people will be laxer with their efforts to curb spread. Wisconsin was lucky it missed the anticipated Thanksgiving surge.

“The next few months will certainly not be easy, we have ongoing COVID-19 fatigue among all segments of our population,” said Dr. Weston.

“To significantly increase past where we were at the end of November, you know a lot of health systems didn’t have a lot of tricks up their sleeves at that point, and they probably don’t now either,” Dr. Pothof said.

Dr. Pothof says COVID-19 data shortly after holidays tend to get murky, and people can expect a hopscotch of fluctuating numbers, but if a surge did come, it would be seen two weeks after Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

“I don’t have, you know, perfect evidence to say more people gathered for Christmas than they did for Thanksgiving, but with the disease burden being down—which we’re certainly thankful for -- there is that concern that people will loosen up a bit and we’ll get back into that cycle,” Dr. Weston added.

“Things are better but they certainly are not good, and if we do see a huge surge coming out of this holiday, that would spell trouble for all of us again,” said Dr. Pothof.

Dr. Pothof says the reason Wisconsin missed the Thanksgiving surge is because people changed their habits and followed precautionary efforts, he hopes the same thing happens these next few days.

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