Dr. Anthony Fauci says families might have to “bite the bullet” and cancel Thanksgiving this year.
Fauci, an immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who served on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, says COVID-19 is still a menace and the rising number of infections in the U.S. could endanger older people or those with medical maladies.
“You may have to bite the bullet and sacrifice that social gathering, unless you’re pretty certain that the people that you’re dealing with are not infected,” Fauci told CBS News anchor Norah O’Donnell.
“That is unfortunately a risk, when you have people coming from out of town, gathering together in an indoor setting,” he said. “It is unfortunate, because that’s such a sacred part of American tradition — the family gathering around Thanksgiving. But that is a risk.”
“Given the fluid and dynamic nature of what’s going on right now in the spread and the uptick of infections, I think people should be very careful and prudent about social gatherings, particularly when members of the family might be at a risk because of their age or their underlying condition,” Fauci said.
Fauci said COVID-19 cases are rising in 37 states, adding “what we really have to do is double down” as the U.S. moves into winter, urging Americans to continue to continue social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands frequently.
“They sound very simple, but people are not doing that and that’s why we have an uptick in cases,” he said.
Fauci, 79, also said his children, who live in three different states, won’t be coming home for the holiday. “They themselves, because of their concern for me and my age, have decided they’re not going to come home for Thanksgiving — even though all three of them want very much to come home for Thanksgiving,” he said.
The doctor’s remarks came after the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said small gatherings 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.”
“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.
Related: CDC Director Says Small Household Gatherings Fueling COVID-19 Spread: Report