To say the 2020 holiday season is different than years past would be an understatement. The pandemic has forced the closure of businesses, separated families, and tossed out traditions.
The state of California continually grapples with the highest numbers of hospitalizations and ICU admissions in December than any other point in time through the course of the pandemic.
On Wednesday the state reported that Riverside County set a new record in hospitalizations, totaling 1,322.
With case rates spiraling out of control and hospital surge plans enacted throughout the state, health officials are urging people to stay at home this Christmas and New Years to avoid a 'surge on top of a surge.'
"Right now we are in the middle of a Thanksgiving surge and imagine, as bad as things are, we are going up. Now we still have Christmas," said Riverside County Department of Public Health spokesperson, Jose Arballo.
Arballo said for anyone that plans on celebrating, the county recommends limiting gatherings to those in your immediate household.
On Wednesday travelers departed and arrived at Palm Springs International Airport. The influx of travelers was nowhere near what the airport normally sees this time of year, but there were many still on their way to be with family and friends for the holidays.
"I’m out here to visit my fiancé who lives here and I’m a widower. My wife passed away 3 years ago. My fiancé and I have known each other for years and her husband passed away too, so we’re getting together for Christmas," said Chicago resident, Ed Bradley.
"I am retired and my son has a twin home out here and, first time ever I’m going to be able to winter out here," said Robyn Elzufon-Frick of Minneapolis.
Elzufon-Frick planned on staying in the desert until April.
The time of year that is supposed to be filled with joy and laughter has become yet another disappointment brought on by the pandemic. It's an ending many are hoping will close the chapter to a relentless 2020.
Though the rollout of the first phase of vaccines has brought a sense of hope, it will take some time to administer widespread vaccines to the public. In the meantime, people are still being asked to limit exposure to ease the strain on hospitals.
For those that are opting to travel despite what experts advise, travelers are asked to keep celebrations outside rather than in an enclosed space. According to Arballo, shortening the length of time for a gathering could also be helpful.
"We understand the frustration, the desire for people to get together but as a public health department we can’t encourage that and it’s really important for people to understand that," said Arballo.
For those planning to fly, "airlines and airports have their own protocols. [Wear] masks, [take] hand sanitizer with you," Arballo said.
Travelers who are leaving the state are advised to check quarantine protocols for different states.
The state of California recently diminished it's self-quarantine advisory. Californians returning from out-of-state are now asked to quarantine for 10 days instead of 14 days as long as a person is not showing symptoms.