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Vaccine's arrival will not help stop current winter COVID-19 surge, experts say

Officials said it could be months before we see the vaccine's impact and the public needs to continue wearing masks and social distancing to lower the numbers.

HOUSTON — The nation is in the middle of a COVID-19 winter surge.

In Texas, more than 14,000 new coronavirus cases were reported on Tuesday. In Houston, the region passed 2,000 coronavirus hospitalizations for the first time since Aug. 14.

RELATED: White House COVID Task Force report: Texas isn't doing enough to stop winter surge

Experts, like Senior Vice President at Baylor College of Medicine Dr. James McDeavitt, warn that the vaccine will not fix things right away.

"I'm actually concerned that people will get caught up in the euphoria of the new vaccine," McDeavitt said.

It's a growing concern among public health officials. They fear people see COVID-19 vaccines going into arms as a sign it's OK to take off that mask and get back to normal.

"If we take our foot off the brake, the virus will take advantage of that," Houston Health Authority Dr. David Persse said. "We're doing good, but we can do better, and if we do any worse, we're going to be in trouble."

Persse said the vaccine is a long-term tool. The only things that can tamp down this surge are masks and continued social distancing.

"The fact the vaccine is here now has no impact on what's going on in this community right now," Persse said.

Experts said mask-wearing and staying apart will need to continue for months, even for those who get vaccinated. The vaccines won't start turning things around until late spring or early summer when enough of the population can be vaccinated.

"When we have 70 plus percent with real immunity, then we can take off our masks, stop distancing and go to restaurants and hug each other again," McDeavitt said.

While we wait for our chance to get the vaccine, health experts recommend assuming everyone you come across could be carrying the virus, so don't toss out the masks just yet.

"Everybody's sick of it, everyone wants to be done, but wishing it away won't make it go away," McDeavitt said.

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