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Lee health & FGCU expert advice for holiday gathering and travel during COVID-19

Expert advice on safety concerns for holiday celebrations in SWFL
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Posted at 11:14 AM, Nov 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-05 11:14:58-05

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — While families and friends make plans to celebrate the holidays, Lee Health officials share their concerns for spreading the virus.

"We have been observing a troubling trend in the last couple of weeks," said Lee Health CEO & President Dr. Larry Antonucci in a Wednesday conference call.

After a sudden spike in local cases, he says the holidays could increase the risk of contracting and spreading the virus.

"At the height of the holiday season, hospital capacity is regularly over 95% during normal times. A rash of COVID-19 cases could pose severe challenges. If we become complacent, it is not a matter of if, but a matter of when we see a large spike in cases," said Dr. Antonucci.

"Is there going to be a resurgence? Are we going to have a second surge as they’ve been saying? We want to do everything we can to keep that possibility low," said Bob Hawkes, the Physicians Assistant Program Director at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Hawkes says when making holiday plans, factor in every risk, like traveling.

Last year, according to Airlines for America, 31.6 million Americans traveled by air during Thanksgiving.

Because of the pandemic, the heavy foot traffic could lead to a higher risk of contracting the virus.

Fox 4 looked up how many confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported at Southwest Florida International Airport and Punta Gorda Airport.

RSW reports a total of 23 cases as of Nov. 1. At Punta Gorda Airport, there has been 3 cases reported since Oct. 23.

Those numbers are pretty low, but other airports are seeing higher numbers.

As of Oct. 26, Miami International Airport has reported 140 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

TSA's reports do not indicate if the confirmed cases were results of the virus being contracted at the airports.

"We need to make sure we protect ourselves by wearing our mask and face covering, maintaining appropriate distancing, and then continuing to wash our hands. More importantly, if you're sick or not feeling well, stay home," said Hawkes.

If you're planning that traditional big Thanksgiving dinner, he says your headcount is important.

"While certainly, we want to be close to family and friends, some of these distancing practices may certainly decrease our potential spread of COVID-19," stated Hawkes.

If there's more you need to know about having a covid-safe holiday, check out the CDC's recommendations on holiday travel by clicking here.

For more Fox 4 articles to keep you and your family informed on the coronavirus pandemic, click here.