The Christmas COVID bubble: Keep it small, experts say

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- With Christmas approaching, there are warnings for people to be extra careful. An infectious disease doctor with Memorial Hermann says she believes the big surge in COVID-19 cases right now is tied to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday. She also says that if you do gather in person, try to do so outdoors.

Doctor Linda Yancey also suggests instead of meeting face-to-face, try a video conference call like Zoom to connect with friends and family.

RELATED: How to safely celebrate holidays with family during the COVID-19 pandemic

"Have a holiday picnic in the park," Yancey suggested. "The weather's a little nippy these days but sunny and beautiful. I would just really discourage people from meeting indoors or in closed settings for long periods of time. That is a recipe for spreading COVID."

While the Moderna vaccine is the second one approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use, experts say it's not the time to let your guard down.

If you're counting on a negative COVID-19 test as your ticket to a holiday dinner, health officials caution that the results vary from day-to-day for some people.

"You could be negative one day and then immediately, a day or two later, you could be positive because maybe the virus hasn't reached levels that are high enough to be detected," said Dr. Prathit Kulkami at the Baylor College of Medicine.

That means to keep wearing a mask and practice social distancing even after you get a test or the vaccine.

On Saturday, lines at testing sites around Houston were expected to be lengthy ahead of the holiday week. The city of Houston said Thursday that workers had tested more than 5,300 people, the second highest tally in December.

If you do decide to see family and friends in-person this holiday season, the Baylor College of Medicine recommends a few safety tips in its "Bubble Guide" to lower your risk of COVID-19 exposure:

  • Quarantine for 14 days
  • Get a test for COVID-19 and test negative
  • Get the flu shot

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One Houston area doctor believes the holidays shouldn't be canceled this year, but instead, families should practice celebrating safely.

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