Health experts concerned about surge after packed New Year’s Eve gatherings

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
(Left to right) epidemiologists Edwin Michael of USF and Cindy Prins of UF. Both health experts spoke to WINK News about concerns for surge in coronavirus cases due large gatherings seen on New Year’s Eve Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020. Credit: WINK News.

From packed holiday beaches to New Year’s Eve parties at bars without masks, health experts are concerned to see the same causes of spread for the coronavirus last year creep into 2021.

The vaccine might be in rollout mode, but it’s going to take a while before it’s making a difference in our community.

Experts told us daily coronavirus numbers will not go down in the state and the region until we stop attending large gatherings and continue to wear our masks.

We reported on the large gatherings seen throughout Southwest Florida on New Year’s Eve.

Credit: screen shots via WINK News.

Facebook posts of celebrations at Dixie Roadhouse in Cape Coral and Seed to Table in Collier County were among many celebrations that showed packed public gatherings to ring in the new year in the region.

“What we don’t need right now is to see those cases continue to increase while we’re trying to get things under control with the vaccine,” said Cindy Prins, an epidemiologist at UF.

In December, Florida reported more cases than any other month during the pandemic.

Partying on — like what was seen at The Cottage Bar Fort Myers Beach — is not what epidemiologists want to see.

“There are a lot of deaths that are occurring because of increases in cases, because of transmission that is going on, because of what people are doing right now,” Prins said.

“The more it spreads, the more chances it has to mutate,” said Edwin Michael, an epidemiologist at USF.

It’s not gatherings in bars and restaurants or in our homes alone. It’s travel too.

This past Sunday at RSW saw a busy travel day. Experts say we should look to places such as London as a sign of what can happen next.

“It is frightening, the surge which is coming,” Michael said.

Experts say we can stop the surge if we put crowds on hold. The health experts know people are exhausted. We’re 10 months into the pandemic, and it’s hard on everyone. They say — keep in mind — the vaccine will truly work best and quickest if the spread is slowed now.

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