By Caroline Vandergriff

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Dallas Cowboys’ COVID-19 outbreak is one of the biggest in the NFL this season. Public health experts said it shows that the pandemic is far from over.

“Just makes you want to be cautious, because if they’re taking all the protocols and they’re having outbreaks, then we just have to step up our game even more,” said fan Tyler Simmons.

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Some Cowboys fans are concerned not only about how the head coach’s case of the coronavirus will affect the team’s season, but also what it means about the continued spread of the virus.

“It is a reminder that we still need to take precautions to protect those around us,” said Dr. Erin Carlson, director of graduate public health programs at UT Arlington.

Case rates in Texas right now are much lower than they were at this time last year, but public health experts said there’s still a chance people caught the virus during Thanksgiving celebrations or travel.

“We do expect that there will be a surge of coronavirus throughout the United States following Thanksgiving, especially as we enter the holiday season,” said Dr. Shane Fernando, a clinical epidemiologist at the University of North Texas Health Science Center.

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It’s too early to predict just how big of an uptick we could see.

“The vaccines have given us a little bit of hope again,” Dr. Fernando said.

There’s also one factor people should consider as they assess the risk of taking part in any of December’s holiday traditions.

“We need to have those conversations with family members and friends and others with whom we’ll be gathering about whether or not they’ve been vaccinated,” Dr. Carlson said. “Whether or not they are careful if they’re traveling en route to join you, if they’ll be wearing their mask.”

Another thing to consider is the new Omicron variant.

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Public health experts said it’s not something to panic about yet, but should be motivation to receive the vaccine if you haven’t already or the booster if you’re eligible.

Caroline Vandergriff