The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says small gatherings — like the ones that will occur on Thanksgiving — could spike the spread of COVID-19.
“In the public square, we’re seeing a higher degree of vigilance and mitigation steps in many jurisdictions,” Director Dr. Robert Redfield said during a call with the nation’s governors on Tuesday, audio of which was obtained by CNN.
“But what we’re seeing as the increasing threat right now is actually acquisition of infection through small household gatherings,” Redfield said. “Particularly with Thanksgiving coming up, we think it’s really important to stress the vigilance of these continued mitigation steps in the household setting.”
Redfield’s warning about holiday gathering was emphasized last week by White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, who said the holidays will look different this year.
“We know most individuals under 35 will be asymptomatic,” she said during a visit to Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. “That means you don’t have any symptoms, or the symptoms are so mild that you don’t believe it has anything to do with COVID.”
But that can present problems, she said.
“This virus can spread among families and friends if you take your mask off and you are primarily indoors,” she said, according to WLWT-TV.
Birx also commented on the holidays during a visit to the Broad Institute COVID-19, a high-capacity testing facility that processes more than 1 in every 20 tests conducted in the United States
“We take down our guard when we are with people we know,” Birx said, the Boston Globe reported. “And we assume if we know you; you couldn’t have COVID.”
Dr. Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine at George Washington University, told CNN that people should not have indoor Thanksgiving dinners with people not in their immediate household.
“If you’re lucky enough to live in a part of the country where the weather will be moderate in November, do an outdoor Thanksgiving. I think in the … places in the country where the winter comes early, I think you have to really be careful,” Reiner told CNN’s “New Day.”
“The consequences of this virus, particularly for older folks — the people that we really want to gather with on Thanksgiving — can be really dire. And frankly, I’d rather do a Zoom Thanksgiving with people that I love than expose them to something that might kill them,” he said.
In the audio obtained by CNN, Dr. Anthony Fauci expressed optimism about a vaccine, saying several trials are on a “really good track.”
“A couple of the vaccines are very close to getting some sort of information,” said Fauci, an immunologist, and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who serves on the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
The doctor said U.S. health officials should know by November or December if any vaccine is effective, adding, “It is conceivable that we might even know before then.”
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