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Thanksgiving gatherings blamed for uptick in Port Arthur, Beaumont COVID-19 cases

Health leaders are concerned about what could happen if families decide to gather in large groups over the Christmas holiday

PORT ARTHUR, Texas — Southeast Texas health leaders are warning of what's to come after a Thanksgiving spike in COVID-19 cases. 

Beaumont has seen an increase of about 20 new cases a day since the holiday, and officials are now worried about Christmas. 

They say Thanksgiving gatherings are largely to blame for this recent spike in COVID-19 cases. 

That's why local health leaders are pleading with the public to stay home for Christmas and away from large groups. 

Sherry Ulmer with the Beaumont Health Department admits things look grim right now. 

"Things are just really not good at this point," Ulmer said. 

Since Thanksgiving, Beaumont and Port Arthur public health departments have seen a spike in COVID-19 cases. 

It's something they anticipated. 

RELATED: Southeast Texas officials urge residents to celebrate Thanksgiving safely as COVID-19 cases rise

RELATED: Jefferson County judge reminding people, businesses to wear masks, comply with COVID-19 guidelines

"It's actually something we predicted, which is why we did the big press release out at the Jefferson County Courthouse," Ulmer said. 

Before Thanksgiving, every 14 days Beaumont was averaging about 30 cases per day. 

Since the holiday, that number has grown to 50 cases a day. 

The reason we are seeing the spike now? 

"We have seen our cases spike at exactly the time we expected to see the spike, about 11 days after thanksgiving," Ulmer said. 

So are contact tracers connecting this to Thanksgiving gatherings? 

Ulmer said for her city, yes. 

"Most of our cases are household contacts or contacts from people who have visited," Ulmer said. 

But contact tracing can be tricky. 

"Contact tracing is only going to be as accurate as the information we are getting from the person on the other end of the phone," Ulmer said. 

Judith Smith with the Port Arthur Health Department is seeing a similar pattern in her city. 

RELATED: Hoping to celebrate Christmas with people you don't live with? Doctors say get tested, start 'social bubble' now

Her concern now is Christmas. 

"It is the "big holiday,'" Smith said. 

Both Smith and Ulmer said if folks don't start listening to the experts, January 2021 is looking very concerning. 

"Our hospitals are overwhelmed. They are. It's just a frustrating time," 

Christmas is right around the corner, health experts are asking folks to keep gatherings small and with immediate family or those you live with. 

Follow the CDC guidelines. Wash your hands, wear a mask and social distance. 

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