Rochester, Minnesota - Reduce COVID-19 Community Spread - Today Matters, tomorrow may be too late.

What you do and how you comply — or don't comply — with COVID-19 pandemic guidelines and recommendations makes a difference in your local community.

Mayo Clinic experts also are stressing that the temporary sacrifices community members are making — like not traveling over Thanksgiving, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — can help gain control of the COVID-19 surge that is blanketing the U.S.

"There are now so many cases in the U.S. that for all practical purposes, thorough contact tracing is no longer possible. The cat is out of the bag." ~ Dr. Gregory Poland

Community spread is the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19, outside of a hospital setting. Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group, says a distinction needs to be made between the outside community and the hospital community. Hospitals like Mayo Clinic have health equipment mandates and protocols to keep patients and staff safe. And he emphasizes that people are primarily getting infected by small group meetings, not large assemblies.

"This is small family gatherings, small friend groups, birthday parties, dinner parties, where you're around family and friends that you know, that you trust and you don't think of them as infected," says Dr. Poland. "And they don't know they're infected because about 40% of this spread is by people who are asymptomatic, who, by definition, don't have symptoms and yet can spread it."