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The South Florida Roundup

'Just be smart': Expert says masks and common sense should make a comeback this holiday season

Photo illustration by Max Posner/NPR
A KN95 mask and a surgical mask.

Flu cases are on the rise in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. Statewide, COVID-19 cases are up too, according to Florida’s health department. For the third consecutive year, viruses may play a part in holiday gatherings.

So before getting on a plane or going to a Christmas party, health officials are urging people to be safe.

But precautions taken during the early part of the pandemic have all but disappeared. On the latest South Florida Roundup, Cleveland Clinic Weston’s head of infectious diseases, Dr. Carla McWillams, said that could be to blame for the uptick in respiratory viruses.

“We're out and about and gathering,” she said. “Respiratory illnesses do spread easily from person to person in this fashion. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us were indoors. And when we did go outdoors, we were wearing masks universally. So that led to a more mild flu season in prior years.”

Dr. McWilliams is urging people to use a common sense approach to making holiday plans.

“I think we need to just be smart,” she said. “So if someone in the family is not feeling well or is feeling like they're coming down with something, don't go to the big family dinner.

"Or if you do go, make sure you stay far away from everyone and wear a mask as the best protection for others. So I think we need to just employ those strategies to protect those who are around us.”

After months of pandemic fatigue from social distancing and mask wearing, it may be time to dust off the mask and put it back on, if you plan to travel or attend parties or holiday events. Dr. McWilliams said that’s an appropriate option for some people with underlying medical conditions.

I do think that for folks who are significantly at risk of more severe disease, even when fully vaccinated, that [we need] to be wise,” she cautioned.

“So wearing a mask, if you go into a crowded indoor space and you don't know what everyone's status is, is probably a good idea. If you just had an organ transplant or, you know, you're on chemotherapy as a means to protect yourself.”

On the latest South Florida Roundup, we also met WLRN's new local government accountability reporter Joshua Ceballos and looked at the public outrage after a newly-elected school board member in Broward County attended an anti-LGBTQ rally, alongside the Proud Boys.

Listen to the full episode above.

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Denise Royal produces The Florida Roundup. Her broadcast experience includes writing and producing for NBC’s The Today Show, Weekend Today, Weekend Nightly News, and MSNBC. She also worked as a Writer/Producer for ABC News and Nightly Business Report on PBS.