Mass. Medical Experts Worried About COVID Surge Within Surge: ‘It's Very Scary'

“I don’t have any doubt that kind of come December 15, 16, 17, we’re going to see the results of this [Thanksgiving travel] and it’s very scary to me,” Worcester Medical Director Dr. Michael Hirsh said

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With millions of Americans ignoring holiday travel restrictions and warnings from medical experts to stay home to stop the spread of the coronavirus, many doctors across the country and locally in Massachusetts now fear we may soon see a post-Thanksgiving spike in COVID case numbers.

The nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Sunday that the U.S. might see a surge superimposed on the surge we are already experiencing in the weeks after the holiday. Fauci also said he does not expect current recommendations around social distancing to be relaxed before Christmas.

Whatever way you look at it, Worcester Medical Director Dr. Michael Hirsh said, the holiday was a super-spreader event wanting to happen.

With the Transportation Security Administration reporting that it processed more than 7 million travelers over the past week, UMass Memorial Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Richard Ellison said the implications of that sudden increase in travel are far reaching.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said Thursday that even though a vaccine was imminent, Americans needed to double down on public health measures. “We’re not talking about shutting down the country,” he said. “We’re not talking about shutting down. We’re talking about intensifying the simple public health measures that we all talk about, mask wearing, distance, avoiding congregate settings.”

“We’re really worried that we’re starting from a high baseline and if we start seeing cases related to Thanksgiving, it’s really going to begin to put a stress on the overall healthcare system,” Ellison said.

Groton resident Leo Biocchi said he stayed home over the holiday to try to stay safe, but thinks not everyone followed suit.

“I think a lot of people still traveled and took the risk because they felt it was the right thing to do," he said. "And they make their own decisions.”

Joe Bailey, of Worcester, compared the virus to getting the seasonal flu.

“It’s Mother Nature. If you get it, you get it. If you don’t, you don’t, just like the flu,” Bailey said.

There's been a rush of people getting COVID-19 tests after the Thanksgiving holiday. People told NBC10 Boston on Monday that they waited in lines longer than six hours just to get a drive-thru test inside a Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare tent.

If someone traveled out of Massachusetts, or if they traveled on an airplane, Ellison said, there's a "real concern" they could have been exposed.

Long lines could be seen Monday at testing sites across the commonwealth in communities like Framingham, Chelsea, Sommerville and Revere, but Hirsh said we won’t truly know how big the post-Thanksgiving bump will be for another 2-3 weeks.

“I don’t have any doubt that, come December 15, 16, 17, we’re going to see the results of this and it’s very scary to me,” Dr. Hirsh said.

UMass will be hosting multiple “Stop the Spread” testing events this week, as will several other municipalities across the Bay State.

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