The Allegheny County Health Department Director said case investigators have already traced new cases back to large gatherings for the Thanksgiving holiday.By Nicole Ford

PITTSBURGH (AP/KDKA) – Health officials on Wednesday urged Americans to stay home over the upcoming holiday season and consider getting tested for coronavirus before and after if they do decide to travel.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the best way to stay safe and protect others is to stay home.

That’s the same advice they had over Thanksgiving but many Americans traveled anyway. With COVID-19 cases and deaths continuing to rise, the CDC added the testing option.

The CDC says even if few people became infected while traveling over Thanksgiving, that could still result in hundreds of thousands of new infections.

At a press conference Wednesday Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen says case investigators have already traced new cases back to large gatherings for the Thanksgiving holiday.

She believes over the next few weeks we will see numbers spike even higher.

The concern now turns to the health care system. County leaders say there are plans in place regionally for any expansion of hospital beds if needed.

“They can certainly expand bed space if needed,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “The problem becomes you can’t expand staff. That’s the real issue: will you have enough staff to take care of the people being hospitalized? And that could be a problem not just in Allegheny County but any surrounding county.”

Despite the positive news on the vaccine front, Dr. Bogen is encouraging people to continue to cancel trips through the spring.

It’s a call echoed earlier this week by Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, who said public health officials are “very concerned” about the upcoming holidays and the recommendation is to stay home.

Pennsylvania has a travel order in effect requiring people coming to the state to either test negative or quarantine for 14 days when they get here.

The CDC said during a press briefing that travelers should consider getting COVID-19 tests one to three days before their trips and again three to five days afterward. They also recommended reducing non-essential activities for a full week after travel or for 10 days if not tested afterward.

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