(CBSDFW.COM) – In the days and weeks before Thanksgiving, elected officials and medical professionals urged people not to have big, in-person gatherings for fear of spreading COVID-19.

Experts say we won’t know right away whether people actually took that advice and if the holiday caused an increase in coronavirus cases.

“We have enough data from the history of the pandemic to say that typically there is a two-week lag,” said Dr. Rajesh Nandy, an associate professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the UNT Health Science Center.

If there’s a rise in COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths as well, we might not see it in the data for another week or two after that.

However, data on retail mobility for Black Friday will likely be available in the next few days, and it could give epidemiologists an idea of how many people actually went out shopping in person.

“If we find that the Black Friday shopping was way below normal, that’s probably an indirect marker that maybe they’ll also comply on Thanksgiving,” Dr. Nandy said. “On the other hand, if we see that no, people did go out a lot on Black Friday, that’s probably an indicator they did the same for Thanksgiving as well.”

There was a similar concern about the Fourth of July holiday causing a spike in cases, accompanied by lots of warnings to stay home.

“And people did listen at that time, and so we have clear data to demonstrate that it didn’t have any adverse effect at that time,” said Dr. Nandy.

But it’s been a few months since then, and COVID fatigue has set in for a lot of people.

“So overall they tend to be less vigilant and less compliant than they used to be in the earlier days,” he said.

If Thanksgiving does turn out to be a super speader event, experts say it will wreak havoc on our hospital systems and likely cause an increase in the COVID fatality rate.

“Right now, our healthcare heroes are exhausted and we’re right at our peaks of what we’ve ever seen before in both our ICU beds and our COVID beds,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.

Since there’s unlikely to be new state restrictions anytime soon, they say it’s up to everyone to do their part to bring the spread under control.

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Caroline Vandergriff