Doctors say the next two months will be a dark time with COVID-19 deaths reaching 3,000 daily in January

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- COVID-19 researchers and top health officials say December and January will be a dark time for the country. They say the brunt of the Thanksgiving holiday is yet to be seen and the surge may overlap yet another holiday where people are gathering.

It has not yet been two weeks since Thanksgiving Day, and health experts say if people don’t change their travel plans and behavior during the holidays, it will only worsen the situation.

“We are in a difficult position right now and December and January will be very hard on all of us,” says Dr. Ali Mokdad, a professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington School of Medicine.  

Dr. Ali Mokdad says the winter season and people’s behaviors are playing a big part, his team expects U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths to reach 3,000 every day in January, and increased hospitalizations in December.

“Hospitalizations will go higher and higher, and unfortunately we’ll see a peak of mortality sometime early January in the United States,” he adds.

Dr. Mokdad says we still don’t know fully what the Thanksgiving holiday will bring, and Christmas celebrations begin in just two weeks. Milwaukee County health officials say they’re deeply concerned.

“We continue to see our positivity rates grow in the city and county, we are continuing to see death numbers increase while our testing is down, and this is a concerning combination,” said Marlaina Jackson, interim health commissioner with the Milwaukee Health Department.

“This Thursday, Dec. 10 will be two weeks after Thanksgiving, and then the next week we’ll see a surge of cases as a result of trouble during Thanksgiving and gatherings, and then one week later mortality,” Dr. Mokdad says.

Dr. Mokdad says it’s difficult to talk about cancelling holiday plans, but it’s worth it if it means saving lives. He says people also need to mask up now more than ever with the prevalence of mask-wearing in the U.S. being only at 71-percent.

We can always celebrate at a later date, but we cannot get somebody back if we lose him or her during the season,” he said.

We are still months away from larger, general scale vaccinations,” said Jackson.

Dr. Mokdad says as vaccines begin to roll out in the next few months, people will still have to be vigilant in wearing a mask and distancing until the country is 80 to 90-percent vaccinated.

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