‘We will see thousands more people in the hospital’: Officials urge Americans to stay home this New Year’s Eve

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New Year’s Eve fireworks over Las Vegas (Photo credit: Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – With COVID-19 numbers continuing to surge across the U.S., officials are urging people to stay at home or celebrate virtually this New Year’s Eve.

“The safest way to celebrate the new year is to celebrate at home with the people who live with you or virtually with friends and family,” the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.

If you are celebrating with people outside your household, the CDC recommends the standard steps for staying safe:

  • Wear a mask
  • Stay at least six feet apart
  • Avoid poorly ventilated indoor spaces and crowds
  • Wash your hands
  • Stay at home if you’re ill
  • Get a flu shot

The CDC suggested some alternative measures for the holiday, including planning a party with household members, planning a neighborhood midnight countdown and watching live-streamed fireworks displays, concerts and other programming from your home.

Officials warned that New Year’s Eve celebrations could spell disaster for already-inundated ICUs and hospitals.

“We have a big problem,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, told The Washington Post. “Look at the numbers — the numbers are really quite dramatic.” 

Dr. Lee Harrison, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, called the situation “very difficult.”

“People are just not paying attention to public health guidelines, and the evidence for that is in the number of people traveling for the Christmas holiday,” he said.

In hard-hit California, which surpassed two million COVID-19 cases on Christmas Eve, San Francisco Department of Public Health director Dr. Grant Colfax warned that New Year’s Eve celebrations could be “catastrophic.”

“If we see a surge like we did from Thanksgiving, we will see thousands more people in the hospital, hundreds more people dying,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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