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The 'Deluge Is Here'; Health Official Warns Of New Year's Eve Gatherings Spreading Omicron

SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) -- With new cases of the omicron variant soaring, health officials were warning of the threat New Year's Eve gatherings presented to the spread of the highly contagious strain of the COVID-19 virus.

Many restaurants, entertainment venues and bars have closed their doors until after the New Year and popular midnight fireworks shows in San Francisco and Sacramento have been cancelled.

"Less than two weeks ago, I warned of a deluge of omicron, and today, unfortunately, that deluge is here," Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said at a press conference Tuesday. "Our cases here in Santa Clara County are spiking and the majority of them are omicron."

As people make difficult choices about get togethers and New Year's Eve plans this week, Dr. Peter Chin Hong, an UCSF Infectious Disease expert, said even he's changed his mind about indoor dining.

"Last week if you'd ask me, I'd probably would have felt more comfortable," he said. "This week, I'm a little bit more queasy and I'd probably feel more comfortable dining outdoors, it depends on the situation. But I'm boosted, I'm relatively healthy."

Cody said that over the past two weeks both the number of COVID cases and the case rate have tripled in her county.

While hospitalizations have not yet increased sharply along with the spike in cases, Cody said they are often a lagging indicator and the order is meant to absorb the expected demand coming to the county's health care system.

"what we do know is that our case rates are going up incredibly fast," she said. "And some proportion of people that get sick, will require a hospital bed. So we are anticipating that our cases will exceed what they did last winter. So even a small proportion will have a significant impact on our hospitals. And that's what we are concerned about."

Cody said if you plan on going ahead with large indoor gatherings, you should think about wearing a mask.

"So if you're indoors, wherever whatever the setting is, even if it's in your home, if you've got more than about 10 people from outside your house coming in, we really urge you to keep your masks on," she said. "Keep your masks on."

Cody said also move the gathering outside if possible.

"We talk about these layers of prevention, vaccinate mask, distance, boost, etc.," she said. "So ventilate whenever possible. Move things outdoors just as we're doing now, even if it's a little bit cold. You know pop on your jacket, pop on your hat, move things outdoors."

But the best way to avoid becoming infected, Cody said, is to simply avoid large gatherings this year.

"At this point with omicron surging the way that it is," she said. "I would not recommend New Year's celebrations unless they are small. Small intimate gatherings is the way to go this New Year's. It's not the time to go to a large gathering."

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