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    Mayo Clinic braces for potential effects of holiday travel, gatherings on Midwest COVID-19 surge

a Mayo Clinic medical staff person, a young, perhaps Asian woman, in PPE and assisting a COVID-19 patient in bed and monitoring her vital signs

As the number of new COVID-19 infections rises dramatically, nationwide hospitalizations are at a record high. Dr. Amy W. Williams, executive dean of practice for Mayo Clinic, gives a situation update on the Midwest surge and describes the concerns health experts have about the potential effects of holiday travel and gatherings on COVID-19 surge.

Watch: Dr. Amy W. Williams discusses the latest on the COVID-19 surge.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites with Dr. Williams are available in the downloads. Please courtesy: "Amy Williams, M.D. / Executive dean for practice/ Mayo Clinic"

"We're still in a surge, there's no question about that. But it seems that things may be stabilizing — some little hints that we are not seeing the rapid rise that we were seeing over the last four weeks, and that things might be settling down," says Dr. Williams. "In the Midwest, we have seen that in Rochester, our positivity rate has decreased to under 10%. It hasn't been there for at least four weeks, so that's wonderful. It's going in the right direction, but not yet where we want to be."

Throughout Mayo Clinic in the Midwest, with the exception of the Southwest Wisconsin region of Mayo Clinic Health System, positivity rates are below 20%, which Dr. Williams says is another big step forward. However, there is still a lot of community spread happening.

"We are also seeing a hopeful trend in that the number of staff out because of exposures or being infected with COVID-19 is decreasing. To put things into perspective, even when we were at our highest number of staff out in the Midwest, it was only as high as 2.8% of our staff, and now it's down to 2.6%. This includes all staff, including those who are working from home," says Dr. Williams.

Of the Mayo Clinic staff not working right because of COVID-19 exposures, Dr. Williams says over 93% is because of exposures in the community, not at work.

"Our percentage of staff that are out because of COVID-19 is lower than many institutions around us. It's good news, we are safe. Unfortunately, we are living in a COVID-19 environment outside of work, and we need to be as safe as possible, all of us do."

While some things are trending in the right direction, Dr. Williams stresses the importance of people not letting their guards down, especially going into the holidays.

"With the holidays coming up, we are very worried. We are bracing and preparing for the surge that we most likely will see around two weeks after Thanksgiving and two weeks after Christmas," says Dr. Williams.

"Remember, as we head into the holiday season, that we are still in a surge. The only way to decrease the number of individuals who are infected in our communities, decrease the spread, is to stay safe by masking, social distancing, robust hand hygiene and staying away from situations where you cannot consistently do that."

Information in this post was accurate at the time of its posting. Due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific understanding, along with guidelines and recommendations, may have changed since the original publication date

For the safety of its patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was recorded prior to COVID-19 or in an area not designated for patient care, where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.

For more information and all your COVID-19 coverage, go to the Mayo Clinic News Network and mayoclinic.org.