Editor's note: This story was last updated on Monday, Dec. 21.
There's no place like home for the holidays and that's exactly where health officials want you to stay (and preferably only with members of your immediate family) these next couple weeks.
With COVID-19 cases continuing to surge in Pima County, putting a strain on healthcare workers and hospital capacity, the Pima County Health Department is urging everyone to stay home as much as possible and avoid gathering with family and friends who are not part of their household.
The Pima County Health Department issued an advisory on Dec. 21 that said the county is on track to have more COVID-19 cases this month than all the cases from March through October combined.
“We have surpassed critical levels of hospital bed usage due to the high rate of community-wide spread occurring in Pima County,” the advisory states. “In the last week, there have been multiple times when there have been no ICU beds available in Pima County; at different times, hospital medical/surgical beds have also reached capacity. Modeling indicates public health and healthcare resources in Pima County will continue to be further stretched and demand for those resources will overwhelm the healthcare system within the next two to three weeks."
With small household gatherings among family and friends being cited as one of the main reasons for the surge in cases in Pima County, officials are asking the community to instead use phone or video calls to connect with people not in their household instead of celebrating in person.
“This isn’t just about COVID anymore and whether you think it’s a real problem or not. The patients filling these hospitals are absolutely real and if you have a heart attack, or if you get into a car accident, or your appendix bursts, there is a real possibility that you may not get the timely care you need to save your life if we don’t get control of this virus,” Pima County Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen said in a news release. “People are dying yet many of those deaths are preventable if the people of this community stay home, wear their masks and avoid people they don’t live with as much as possible.”
They also ask everyone to continue to stay home as much as possible, and abide by the county's mask mandate and be diligent about wearing a mask any time they are out in public and around others.
If leaving home is unavoidable, the health department's recommendations for lowering your risk of spreading COVID-19 at a holiday gathering include:
- Limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer people indoors, or 25 people outdoors
- Wearing your mask and keeping a distance of six feet from others even outdoors
- Keeping windows and doors open for better airflow
- Asking guests to bring their own food and beverages and avoid sharing utensils and cups.
- Keep a guest list to help with contact tracing
- Avoid bars and any crowded, indoor spaces