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Health experts warn that coronavirus case numbers could be misleading after Thanksgiving

Experts warn that coronavirus numbers could be unreliable for the next week or so as testing rates dropped during the Thanksgiving holiday, The Associated Press reports.

Many testing sites across the country had reduced hours of operation during the holiday, and fewer people were likely to get tested as they traveled or hosted gatherings.

These factors could potentially result in lower overall reported COVID-19 cases, making people think incidences of the virus are dropping when in reality the increase of travel and social gatherings in the past week will likely cause a surge in cases.

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"I just hope that people don’t misinterpret the numbers and think that there wasn’t a major surge as a result of Thanksgiving, and then end up making Christmas and Hanukkah and other travel plans," Leana Wen, a professor at George Washington University, told the AP.

It's likely that numbers will drop for a few days following Thanksgiving before spiking again as testing centers reopen with normal hours and results catch up, said Mark Rupp, professor and chief of infectious diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

This phenomenon is seen repeatedly after weekends, as many testing sites are closed on Saturdays and Sundays; reported positive coronavirus cases drop on Mondays only to rapidly increase again later in the week, according to the AP. 

"Where we are now is a completely unsustainable place. I think it’s extremely frustrating to those of us in health care to see our calls are not being heeded," Wen said. "And the level of alarm that we have is not reflected in individuals’ behavior."

Coronavirus cases continue to rapidly increase around the country, with officials warning of a long winter ahead. The number of coronavirus infections in the United States surpassed 13 million the day after Thanksgiving.