Pennsylvania health officials are urging residents to avoid gathering for the upcoming New Year's holiday. They fear that COVID-19 cases will surge in early January as many gather during the holiday season, and the New Year holiday could make it worse.

On Monday, Pennsylvania reported 3,779 new cases of the virus -- which marks a significant decrease from positive COVID-19 testing totals as recently as last week -- but the optimism seems to tempered by fears of what's to come.

”This weekend’s numbers and today’s numbers are certainly influenced by decreased testing over Christmas and over the weekend,” Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine said on Monday.

Aas the holiday season likely resulted in family gatherings indoors, there's a big worry amongst health officials about what we'll see in January as the virus may have spread during those gatherings.

"We are concerned we could see an increase again in January if people don’t stay the course," Levine warned.

Since 2020 was such a tough year, many of us may want to celebrate its end (and look forward to 2021), but that shouldn't be the case, they say.

Levine reminded residents to hold off on celebrating New Year's Eve and New Year's Day with anyone outside of their immediate household.

"In order to stay the course, people must hold off on celebrating New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with anyone outside their household," Levine reiterated on Monday.

On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci shared a similar message during an interview on CNN's State of the Union. Fauci made the comments as families traveled and gathered for the holidays, so it's likely they unknowingly spread the virus.

"We very well might see a post-seasonal — in the sense of Christmas, New Year’s — surge, and, as I have described it, as a surge upon a surge," Fauci said. 

In fact, the immunologist warns that the "darkest days" of the pandemic may still be ahead saying that "as we get into the next few weeks, it might actually get worse."

In Pennsylvania, our hospitals are "significantly challenged," but not overwhelmed at this moment, Levine said. As of Monday afternoon, 5,095 patients were being treated for the virus in hospitals across the state, which is slightly down from the week before.

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