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Local healthcare officials urge people to avoid holiday gatherings as COVID-19 death toll climbs

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Local healthcare officials are calling on everyone to avoid in-person holiday gatherings of more than one household.

Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said that coronavirus contact tracers have linked infection spread to holiday events like Christmas cookie decorating parties and wine dates among friends.

“As harmless as these activities may seem, they are examples of how this virus is spreading in our community today,” Mendoza said. “So just because someone tests negative a day or two before your planned gathering, it does not mean that that person cannot bring the virus to your dining table.”

Within a year, COVID-19 has killed more than 29,000 people across New York state according to the state department of health. And more than 323,000 people across the country according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“In honor of those families who will be mourning a loved one this holiday season I urge you to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” Mendoza said. 

Dr. Robert Mayo with Rochester Regional Health said ICU staff and resources are strained with the current caseload. A spike in cases from the holidays could result in delayed care for other medical conditions.

Dr Michael Apostolakos, chief medical officer at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said there is often more socializing during the holiday season, and many people want to see friends and family. That’s why many medical experts are expecting COVID-19 cases to spike in the weeks to follow. 

“If we see a significant bump in cases due to the holidays, this will stress our systems and we’ll be able to take care of less non-COVID illness,” said Apostolakos. 

If hospitals hit their surge capacity, Apostolakos said that all elective procedures would be canceled and non-urgent care delayed.

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.
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