Ahead of the holidays, state epidemiologist asking Utahns to ‘make sure you’re not the one bringing COVID’ to the party


SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – With the holidays fast approaching, Americans are deciding if they’ll get together with their loved ones this year or not. And public health officials are sharing how families can stay safe from the coronavirus this season.

White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci warns coronavirus cases remain high across the country this holiday season.

“We unfortunately still have a dynamic of infections in the community of about 70,000 new cases per day,” he said in an interview with the Bipartisan Policy Center.

In Utah, state epidemiologist Dr. Leisha Nolen told ABC4 News cases are much lower this year when compared to last year at this time.

“Looking at last year, we had three really big peaks. We had Thanksgiving, we had Christmas and then we had New Years. We’re definitely lower than last year and I think we can really thank vaccines,” she said.

Data from the Utah Department of Health shows the state experienced an average of 3,000 cases a day around this time last year. Right now, Dr. Nolen said there’s an average of 1,600 cases a day.

While transmission rates are lower this year, Dr. Nolen said Utahns aren’t free of risk from contracting COVID-19.

“We know there’s still a very large amount of COVID circulating in Utah,” she said. “While many of us are vaccinated and we only get mild infections, unfortunately, a lot of people who are unvaccinated are still going to the hospitals.”

Dr. Nolen said she recognizes the pandemic has been tough on families. She told ABC4 News she wants families to spend time together, but to do so safely.

“Getting vaccinated and enjoying that holiday without the stress of having to worry about who might have COVID, who might pass it on, it’s really important,” she said.

Dr. Fauci also encouraged people to celebrate the holidays with loved ones, but with those who are vaccinated.

“When you’re with your family at home, goodness, enjoy it with your parents, your children, your grandparents, there’s no reason not to do that,” he said.

Two new polls show Americans plan to spend the holidays in different ways.

A national survey from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center reports 72% of people plan to celebrate the holidays with just their household.

And Monmouth University found 63% of people will get together with the same number of people as they did pre-pandemic.

“We all sign up for what we’re bringing for the holidays, for Thanksgiving,” Dr. Nolen said. “Are you bringing the turkey? Are you bringing the gravy, potatoes? Make sure you’re not the one bringing COVID.”

If people are not yet vaccinated against COVID-19, Dr. Nolen recommends some ways to keep people safe and healthy.

“It might be something reasonable to try and keep people a little more spaced and have a little more open areas so that there’s not as much air exchange between direct people,” she said.

Dr. Nolen also said standard public health practices are still effective in limiting the spread of COVID-19.

With colder weather and indoor get-togethers, Dr. Nolen said following the holidays, there’s concern the state could experience another surge in cases.

“It might be very possible that we have hospitals that cannot take care of everybody that needs medical care,” she said.

Dr. Nolen once again encourages people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. She also said now is a good time for those who are eligible to get their booster shot, to get it.

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