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UT Heath San Antonio doctors warn residents to 'be COVID-cautious' during holiday break

Coronavirus cases are surging once again as vaccines are slowly starting to roll out in Texas.

SAN ANTONIO — As local leaders report a record-high count of new coronavirus cases in Bexar County and hospitalizations skyrocket in Texas, doctors in the UT Health San Antonio system are urging people to "be COVID-cautious" during the holidays.

“We’re probably more alarmed now than we’ve been at any other point during this pandemic,” said Dr. Robert Leverence, UT Health San Antonio's chief medical officer. “My concern is not only does this surge catapult because of Thanksgiving, but it’s going to catapult again over Christmas and then again over the new year.”

Leverence said that if people don’t follow all of the safety protocols over the holidays – including social distancing, hand-washing and mask-wearing in public spaces – infections won’t be the only thing that increases.

“As early as the first of the year we may no longer have the ICU capacity and the floor capacity to take care of all the patients that need it,” Leverence said.

The doctor says that goes for all patients, not just those fighting the novel coronavirus. Leverence says hospital staff could be limited in January.

“We haven’t seen the healthcare community overwhelmed by this pandemic. We got close in July, but we haven’t seen it yet, and we are at risk of seeing that happen,” Leverence said.

He added that he understands people want to travel for the holidays, but he said that until the community gets the virus under control and more residents are vaccinated, it’s best if everyone stays home.

“Hopefully this is the last time we have to say it," Leverence said. "Because we do have these vaccines and we hope this would be the last surge, but this may be the surge to end all surges."