Experiencing symptoms following Thanksgiving? County leaders warn of possible post-holiday surge

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The Thanksgiving holiday is behind us, but other winter holidays are on the way. That has Milwaukee County leaders warning about COVID-19 conditions.

Dr. Ben Weston, director of medical services for the Office of Emergency Management, said in Milwaukee County, case numbers and hospitalizations slowed over the holiday week. 

However, health leaders are now bracing for a potential surge over the next few weeks following Thanksgiving.

"We certainly hope that that does not happen," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Barrett and Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley thanked those who celebrated Thanksgiving over Zoom or from a distance.

"Now we'll see in the next couple of weeks whether that was something that most people followed or whether we see a spike," Barrett said.

Families will be forced with the same tough decisions for the holidays ahead. Weston encourages them to think about the roughly 500 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the county and 1,800 statewide.

"There was no decision to be made. They spent Thanksgiving alone in the hospital and instead of struggling with Thanksgiving plans, they were struggling for breath," Weston said.

Following Thanksgiving, the sweet spot to get tested is between three and five days after exposure, according to Marlaina Jackson, interim commissioner for the Milwaukee Health Department.

"Even if you have very mild symptoms, we encourage you to get tested right away," Jackson said.

Jackson said the health department is also fielding questions about who will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines first once they are available.

"There is light at the end of the tunnel. We are moving forward with that in mind but knowing that the next few weeks and month or so we'll have to continue to double down," Jackson said.

She said vaccines would be distributed as part of a tiered system. First, they would go to health care workers, other essential workers and high risk individuals. The department doesn't expect vaccines to be available for the general public until spring of 2021.

Health leaders said wearing masks continues to be important. They stressed that if people follow public health guidelines, the county can get through this winter without overwhelming hospitals.

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