FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Despite the first COVID-19 vaccines being administered across the country Monday, Dec. 14, experts say this pandemic is far from over, and they urge people to continue to take precautions through the holidays and well into the new year.

“Our hospitals are crowded,” said Dr. Gary Floyd, a Fort Worth pediatrician and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics board. “Not yet overrun.”

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COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are up in North Texas, and frontline healthcare workers are getting tired.

“And they’re getting sick, their family members are getting sick, so we really need to slow the spread of this virus,” said Melissa Winans, Chief Nursing Officer for Texas Health Denton Presbyterian Hospital.

The delivery of the first doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine brings a lot of hope, but some worry, too.

“It’s certainly a concern that as people think there’s a vaccine available, they may not wear the protective equipment such as a mask,” Winans said. “They may not be as diligent about washing their hands, and we absolutely must.”

Doctors and nurses say this is the worst time for people to become complacent about precautions.

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The COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. reached 300,000 on Monday.

“It’s concerning, with Christmas coming up, they’ll be a lot more group activities,” said Dr. Floyd. “We just need people to be very careful and be very safe.”

Doctors say it will take about 80% of the population getting the vaccine to achieve herd immunity, which means life won’t return to “normal” until likely fall of 2021.

“We can’t even talk about relaxing the restrictions of social distancing and masking and hand washing and things like that until six to nine months from now,” said Dr. Joseph Chang, chief medical officer of Parkland Hospital.

If a large amount of people are unwilling to get the vaccine, doctors say that could push that timeline out even farther.

They encourage people to talk it over with their physician once the vaccine is available for the general public.

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Caroline Vandergriff