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'This should not be the last Christmas': Doctor issues warning ahead of holiday break

Health experts say if you get sick after having a Christmas holiday gathering, there's a possibility there may not be a hospital bed for you.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Friday, South Carolina hit a new record with 3,648 new positive cases of coronavirus.

RELATED: SC surpasses record with 3,648 new COVID-19 cases, 25.9% positive rate

As Christmas break begins for many across the state, doctors encourage everyone to remain vigilant in order to avoid overwhelming our hospital systems.

"We have been above 20% now for quite a while and this is before probably the largest uptick after Christmas is going to occur," said Dr. Helmut Albrecht, Director of Infectious Disease Research and Policy for Prisma Health and USC. "We are already in the danger zone."

Health experts say if you get sick after having a Christmas holiday gathering, there's a possibility there may not be a hospital bed for you.

"This is already a catastrophe and this may get much, much worse after Christmas."

Of all COVID-19 tests reported to DHEC Friday, nearly 26% were positive

Albrecht says wait times in emergency rooms are getting longer, and the ability to find a bed in-house for the ER is getting more difficult.

As of Friday, 82% of hospital beds in South Carolina are taken.

Credit: SCDHEC

Although we are getting better at treating infected patients, Albrecht says higher numbers can overwhelm the system and not everyone will survive.

"We are already stretched," he explained. "We are still making it, but when we have to start making decisions on who will get care and who will not, then the mortality rate quickly goes into a really bad trajectory."

He says the turning point, in either direction, depends on what we do for Christmas.

"Everybody wants to see their parents and their kids for Christmas. I totally understand that. We are all done with Zoom calls, but we have to in order to have a next Christmas with them," said Albrecht. "If you are taking your risk now, the likelihood that you will have to pay for it is extraordinarily high...Our grandparents and our patients who've had cancer recently or suffer from other forms of heart and lung disease will pay for this."

The CDC says the safest plan is having a virtual holiday gathering. 

Health experts say anything in-person with people from outside your household is not worth the risk.

"We really need to do better. Maybe not for a very long time, but this should not be the last Christmas for a lot of people." said Albrecht. "This will be the one and only [Zoom Christmas], but you have to survive it in order to get to the vaccine."

For a closer look at the CDC's guidance for holiday gatherings, click here.

RELATED: Columbia mayor weighs in on possible lifting of 11 pm 'Last Call Order'


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