Thinking of planning a trip this holiday season?

Hitting the mall for that last-minute deal?

How about that office Christmas party?

With cases of COVID-19 soaring across the state, and Long Island hospitals beginning to feel the crunch from an influx of coronavirus patients, two local health care officials say the answer to all three questions is a resounding "no."

Dr. Nicolas Hernandez of Northwell Health's Plainview Hospital and Dr. Bettina Fries, chief of the infectious diseases at Stony Brook University's School of Medicine, answered questions about the virus, a potential vaccine and the path ahead during a webinar hosted by Newsday on Friday.

With Long Island's infection rate nearing 6% — and with Nassau and Suffolk hospitals at about 80% capacity — the doctors say it is time for residents to once again limit interactions with anyone outside of their immediate household.

"People think because it's their neighbor that they know or their family that they're safe. They are not safe," Fries said. "They should not think how they are related to people but they should ask if they live under one roof with them."

Newsday readers asked the physicians questions about potential interactions — from traveling to hosting indoor, socially-distant visits with the grandchildren or an in-person cookie exchange.

Hernandez, who recovered from the virus, said it's better to err on the side of caution this year, moving gatherings to Zoom, conducting most holiday shopping online and, when events can't be prevented, holding them outdoors with participants wearing masks and staying six feet apart.

"For one year it's much better to sacrifice versus having multiple years of continuing to try and calm this virus down," he said.

Long Islanders should consider that, even if they do not get seriously ill or die, COVID-19 patients are draining health care resources and putting undue pressure on the hospital system, Fries said.

"We should try not to make a deal with the devil. And the devil is the virus," she said. " … All these calculations — can I do this or can I do that — need to be seen in the context of 'Do I need to do this? Can't I just do it next year.' "

Hernandez urged Long Islanders to remain vigilant, as the first doses of the vaccine are set to be delivered to nursing homes and health care workers in the coming days.

"We are in the middle of a crisis right now and we're kind of running a car without a spare tire," said Hernandez, who plans to get vaccinated. "It's an extra layer of protection."

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