With 157,000 new Covid-19 cases yesterday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, the United States is in the midst of an enormous surge that is not expected to peak until mid-January.
But, despite the CDC’s recommendation not to travel for Thanksgiving, millions of Americans did it anyway. In fact, air travel broke a pandemic record over the holiday weekend, according to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) data.
Now one of the country’s top Covid-19 experts is urging folks to cancel upcoming trips for the immediate future. “Any type of travel needs to stop for all Americans. We need to stay put for the next few weeks,” said Dr. Vin Gupta on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” this morning.
A noted critical care pulmonologist, Dr. Gupta is an assistant professor of Health Metrics Sciences at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, whose much-cited Covid-19 death-projection model is now estimating that the disease will claim over 470,000 American lives by March 1, 2021.
While vaccine news provides a light at the end of the dark pandemic tunnel, Dr. Gupta said Americans should hunker down through the holidays and curtail travel until those vaccines become widely available to the general population.
“This is a really dangerous time before relief is on the near horizon,” he said. “Come March and into the summertime we will have relief.”
Most people don’t appreciate how easily the virus transmits itself, according to Dr. Gupta. “Any type of travel, given the transmission dynamics, is dangerous. So please stay home. It’s too dangerous right now.”
He added that this is “a really, really, really challenging time” due to widespread staff shortages at hospitals around the country. “The big killer here is not going to be a lack of ventilators,” said Dr. Gupta. “It’s going to be [a lack of] human personnel, adequately trained personnel.”
For most families, it comes as a shock to see a loved one land in the ICU infected with Covid-19. “They didn’t know that somebody unwittingly passed it to a family member on holiday, for example, when they were traveling to see them,” said Dr. Gupta. “They didn’t know that that family member who was vulnerable because of a pre-existing condition then got Covid-19 and then ended up seeing me or my colleagues in the ICU a few days later.”
Asked what other behaviors people should modify before a vaccine rolls out, Dr. Gupta replied, “Let’s be mindful of indoor dining. Do outdoor dining to the extent possible in the wintertime, and take out of course.”
“But indoor dining just can’t happen,” he said. “You just can’t have curfews. Covid-19 doesn’t just transmit itself after 11 pm at night. We need to think about a full stop to indoor dining as community transmission rates increase and hospitalization rates increase as well.”