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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

Safety concerns over big crowds and last-minute holiday shopping

Shoppers are out in full force, which is causing concern about safety in the pandemic. And not just at the malls or big box stores, but big crowds at the airport.

SAN DIEGO — Many are making the mad dash for gifts before Christmas in San Diego. 

"Picking up some last minute, small, stocking stuffers,” said shopper Blake Vandenkolk.

Yewanda Olagbemi was at the mall looking for Christmas ornaments, shoes, purses and clothes.

At the Westfield UTC Mall on Wednesday, some shoppers had a strategy.

"We got up really early to get here. Yes, to beat the crowds,” said shopper Sam Brotman.

It's the big crowds causing big concerns for medical professionals over the rampant spike in COVID-19 cases.

"A big fear is that after Christmas and New Year's, we're going to see even worse spread, which could be really disastrous,” said Dr. Abbie Olulade in Family Medicine at Sharp Rees-Stealy.

Olulade has a few tips for shopper safety.

"You definitely want to make sure that you try to do your shopping outdoors if you're going to do that, but if you cannot do that, make sure that you are still maintaining social distancing. Always wear a mask, always wash your hands or use hand sanitizer because you were going to be touching surfaces that many people have touched," said Olulade.

The same goes for traveling this season. At Southwest Airlines at San Diego International Airport, travelers packed in line ready to catch their flights. All were wearing masks on Wednesday, but at each check-in station to drop off luggage, there is very limited if any social distancing.

"We are heading towards a very steep cliff, a very dangerous cliff with all the traveling that is happening,” Olulade said.

Another key safety measure is to limit your time indoors or in line when possible. Olulade said, “the more time you spend shopping, the more your risk is, so try to do things quickly."

Vandenkolk said he chose the outdoor mall because of health concerns and the variety of stores.

"Crowds are a big thing, and it's like for shopping, I usually would touch a lot more, but not this year," said Vandenkolk.

This year brought uneasiness for many shoppers, fearful they may bring home more than just a present. Yewanda Olagbemi said she was afraid she might catch Covid while shopping. She gave herself two hours at Nordstrom with a budget.

"Just nothing more than $1,000," said Olagbemi.

But more than just Covid-safety, pandemic shopping hasn't been easy.

"It's been a little challenging. The lines are pretty long to get into most stores and a lot of the online stuff isn't there like it usually is,” Brotman said.

Little Emily Brotman at 4-years-old was happy to get a toy early from Geppetto's.

"It's been really hard to find things. Everything is out of stock, and it's just you know, the stores are kind of picked bare,” Sam Brotman said.

He and others were hoping to find something in time while shopping safely.