By Ted Scouten

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – The holiday rush is on. With Christmas Eve nearly upon us, travelers are racing to get to their destination.

About 150,000 people are expected to pass through both of South Florida’s airports on Wednesday, many with COVID at the top of their minds.

“We are taking a lot of precautions. We are traveling to Massachusetts and we have to present a COVID test prior, 72 hours before our arrival,” said Ximena Perez.

Despite precautions that can be taken, health experts are pleading with people to pass on travel this year.

“My advice is not to travel. Stay home with your immediate household family,” said Rachel Guran, an epidemiologist with Memorial Healthcare System.

Guran urged people to stay put and keep in mind the number of people who have died from COVID.

“I would look at that 300,000 Americans who are not here with us, whose Christmas dinners are going to be empty, those empty chairs, the plenty of people in the hospital who have been by themselves,” said Guran.

“I am terrified about what we’re going to see after the holidays based on what I’m seeing now, which is scaring the hell out of all of us,” said Dr. Andrew Pastewski, the ICU medical director at Jackson South.

He suggests if you are traveling to see family, be strict with COVID protocols.

“You absolutely need to wear the mask when you’re at the family gathering if you’re within six feet of each other, especially if you have elderly people. Two people wearing a mask is about 99% effective for preventing the virus,” he said.

Pastewski expects things will get worse after the holiday.

“We’re now just seeing the effects of Thanksgiving. We’re still not going to see the full effects of Thanksgiving for about another week or two. To think about what’s coming from Christmas and New Years’, it’s absolutely terrifying, especially when you think we are this close to having what we need to finish this,” he said.

Ted Scouten