Health officials are terrified of a pandemic Christmas

In recent days America’s infection curve has already become a sheer mountain-climber’s cliff with record-breaking case numbers and hospitalizations, according to an article in the Washington Post. If people travel and gather for Christmas as they during the Thanksgiving holiday, health experts project the country’s already catastrophic situation could reach levels where hospitals are forced to choose which patients to save and which to let die, and where lockdowns become unavoidable realities of everyday life.

“What concerns me is that Thanksgiving is an American holiday,” said Melissa Nolan, an epidemiologist at the University of South Carolina. “Christmas is an international holiday — it’s celebrated around the world. So if Thanksgiving is an indicator of how much travel we can expect at Christmas, I think that is very concerning.”

Top officials are trying to mitigate the damage already done for this holiday. Those who traveled during the holiday should get tested and avoid crowds, said Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir.

“Make really sure you adhere 100 percent to mask-wearing, to avoid crowds because you could inadvertently have gotten covid and spread it,” Giroir said on CNN.

Many people seem to be continuing to indulge in a kind of magical thinking and denialism, as they have all year long. “It’s like ‘I know this is a bad idea, but I want to do it, so I’ll find a reason and way,’ ” said on health professinal.

Ahead of Christmas, health departments need to better spell out for families the limits of testing ahead of such gatherings. States and federal authorities also need to better coordinate public, commercial and university labs, so that those at capacity can share their burden.

“Testing itself isn’t a bad thing, but people started using it to justify doing whatever they wanted,” said Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist with George Mason University. “And people who really needed tests couldn’t get them because sites were overwhelmed.”

Scott Becker, chief executive of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, warned that a negative result doesn’t necessarily mean you have a clean bill of health since a person can test negative in the morning and be positive by evening, if he or she was recently infected and is just beginning to incubate the virus. “There’s nothing about getting a one-time negative result that is foolproof,” he said.

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