Health officials prepare for post-holiday surge in COVID-19 cases

Experts fear that all of the holiday travel will make the pandemic worse at a time when the case count is already breaking records.
7:23 | 11/29/20

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Transcript for Health officials prepare for post-holiday surge in COVID-19 cases
As we said health officials fear all this travel, whether down or not, will only make the pandemic worst at a when our case count is breaking records. Let's bring in Trevor Ault who is outside a hospital in new York City. Trevor, good morning to you. Reporter: Good morning, Dan. As you mentioned some of those predictions about what could happen with this pandemic through the holidays are astoundingly grim. In many ways we're in deep trouble right now. The U.S. Has risen above 91,000 people being treated for coronavirus in the hospital. That's an increase of 50% in a matter of weeks from what was already a record high. The U.S. Climbing past 4 million covid cases in November, the most of any month so far. Health officials fear as we weather the holidays, the worst is yet to come. I truly believe the next 6 to 12 weeks are going to be the darkest weeks in modern American medical history. Reporter: Dr. Joseph Varon is on the frontlines in Texas. Which just set a new record high for cases the day before Thanksgiving. Video taken that night shows a packed crowd in a Houston nightclub. The mayor calling it disturbing. The next day, the doctor clocked in on Thanksgiving for his 252nd workday in a row. Seen here comfort one of the many covid patients that now line his hospital's halls. I have nurses in the middle the day start crying because they keep getting patients and there's just not enough nurses Reporter: With more than half the United States recording record high hospitalizations this week, significant restrictions are on their way. In southern California a three week stay-at-home order starts Monday in Los Angeles. Restaurants there are already limited to take-out and delivery I think it's really unfair to the restaurant owners. Reporter: In northern California San Francisco announcing new restrictions overnight that take effect today at noon. Santa Clara urging residents to stay home while closing hotels to all but essential travellers and banning contact sports, which include home games and practices for the San Francisco 49ers. This pandemic is like a high speed train. Our projections tell us we're on target to derail by the third week of December. Reporter: While vaccine break throughs are showing hope on the horizon extensive work is happening for the supply chain. Pfizer's vaccine needs stored at about 94 below zero. Freezer companies have to substantially step up their output to meet demand. The two dose scenario, 14 billion vaccines globally, that starts to add up. Reporter: Every day in the interim health care workers are putting themselves on the line. When the pandemic hit, former Dallas nurse iris Mada came out of retirement to teach nursing and lost her own fight with the virus. Her daughter Celine trying to come to terms with her mother's sacrifice. One side of the coin is I died doing something I loved. The other side is I left everyone behind. My kids want their grandmother I want my mother back. Reporter: Here in New York the positivity rate climbs towards 4% officials are struggling to crack down on illegal gatherings. Saturday morning New York City sheriff deputies shut down a secret Manhattan club packed with about 400 people. Continues to be a major problem. Trevor Ault, thank you. We appreciate it. Joining us now is Dr. John Brownstein. An epidemiologist at Boston children's hospital. Dr. Brownstein, good to have you with us. I want to jump right to it. Today is expected to be the busiest travel day of the Thanksgiving weekend. To the millions of Americans heading home, braving the airports, what's your advice on how to stay safe and W get tested? Good morning, whit. This is a dire situation. We're seeing increnumbers of Americans moving around the country and bringing virus with them. It's not just about the mode of travel. It's about all the activities on the edges. It's the bus stops, the airports. These are high risk environments where it's hard to maintain social distancing. You have to wear your mask, wash your hands, try to stay six feet apart. If you're in a car or ride share, masks on, windows open. Also, there's confusion around testing. You can't come back from travel and think you'll get a negative test the next day. The V takes days to in coup bait. You need to wait four days, likely seven days. Everybody needs to check with local public health offices in their jurisdictions. They may have requirements like 14-day quarantine right now. Everyone needs to be vigilant. If we're not going to add to this real humanitarian crisis. Now, there is some hope on the way. Looks like the first doses of a vaccine could be going out with emergency use authorization in a matter of weeks. Many have raised concerns about cold storage and distribution. What do you see as the biggest hurdles in the initial roll-out? It's a great question. There's so much positive news on the vaccine front. All the science doesn't matter if we can't get the vaccines to people. There's so much coordination that needs to happen between hospitals, pharmacies, suppliers of dry ice, vials and gloves and ca carriers. Clearly a lot of work is being done around logistics. Plans are well under way. I feel very confident. Each vaccines has its limitations, cold storage, availability of doses. The freeze component is a big the supply chain is being built up with freezers to get everyone access. The other layer of difficulty is the two-dose vaccine. That doubles the logistical challenges for every person that has to get two shots. We can't minimize the undertaking this is going take on. We mentioned you work with Boston children's hospital. We're seeing school districts across the country shutting down, going all remote. Despite the data showing that schools have been safe, the rate of infection, the spread has been low in the classroom, are these cities and districts making a mistake closing schools too soon? This is a big question. This is the challenge of setting thresholds around single data points. Percent of positivity is just one element. We should be looking at all the evidence combined to make decisions on whether you shut down schools. Schools have not been shown to be the main part of transmission. We've seen other parts of the country like Rhode Island chose to shut down indoor dining. We need to look at all the evidence when we think about schools and think about how to do other things before shutting down our schools. Clearly we want to keep our kids in learning environments as much as possible. It's incredibly important. We've seen educators do a tremendous job trying to limit the spread within the schools as well. Dr. Brownstein, thanfor your time. We appreciate it. Thank you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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