ODESSA, Texas — Another holiday season is upon us and after last year it's feeling closer to what it should.
Many people are looking to return to their family traditions as the worst of COVID looks to be behind us. What do our doctors suggest? Is it time to let our guard down?
NewsWest 9 spoke with Dr. Rohith Saravanan, Chief Medical Officer at Odessa Reginal Medical Center. He said this time around our situation is much different compared to last year.
While we are not navigating through a spike in cases and the COVID-19 vaccine is widely available for the majority of the population, Dr. Saravanan still emphasizes the importance of being cautious since many cases are still being reported daily.
"Because of Thanksgiving and Christmas, that's coming up, we had hoped that by now our numbers would be closer to zero," said Dr. Saravanan. "That's what we had hoped for, less people carrying the disease, but that is not the case right now."
Dr. Saravanan believes our hospitals are able to manage the patients hospitalized with the virus, but that does not mean people should let their guard down.
"The hospitals in our area tell us there numbers are constant about 25 to 30 patients hospitalized," said Saravanan. "This is much less than the one hundred patients we had before, but it's still not zero patients."
Local health leaders emphasize on the lessons learned in the past and hope people continue to be cautiously optimistic as they gather or travel this holiday season.
"We have learned a couple of things from last winter," said Saravanan. "One thing we learned is that if we actually follow through with masking, social distancing, hand washing and not congregating in big groups, we can control the respiratory illness well enough."
Saravanan said at this point we know the measures we need to take to stay safe and healthy.
"We want to help you celebrate with your family and friends in the safest possible," said Saravanan. "It's not about not celebrating, it's about finding a way to celebrate in the safest possible way."
Hospital leaders from across the area continue to emphasize the importance of mask wearing, hand washing and getting the COVID-19 vaccine especially as people get together for the holiday season.