By Carolyn Crist, WebMD
The U.S. could see an overwhelming surge in coronavirus cases in December and January as people meet to celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and other winter holidays, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in several interviews on Monday.
“We have a baseline of infections that literally is breaking records every day,” Fauci told CBS News during the Milken Institute’s Future of Health Summit. “The numbers are really stunning.”
The upcoming holidays could be even more of a challenge than the Thanksgiving holiday, Fauci said, adding that the post-Thanksgiving increase will continue to surge right up until Hanukkah and Christmas and pile on top of New Year’s Eve plans. He encouraged Americans to avoid travel and in-person gatherings this year to prevent the escalating spread of the virus.
“For the first time in more than 30 years, I’m not spending the Christmas holidays with my daughters,” he said.
Americans are already facing a “critical time” right now, Fauci told CNN on Monday. The U.S. has logged record numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths this month and surpassed 15 million cases on Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Also on Monday, Fauci joined New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a virtual press briefing and suggested that private in-home gatherings with 10 people might be “a bit too much.”
“It’s not only the number, it’s the people who might be coming in from out of town,” Fauci said. “You want to make sure you don’t have people who just got off a plane or a train. That’s even more risky than the absolute number.”
People may contract the coronavirus while traveling but not yet show symptoms, he said, which could further infect others when people take off their masks to eat and drink. Those types of gatherings could lead to an increased surge next month.
“We could start seeing things get really bad in the middle of January, not only for New York State but for any state or city,” he said, adding that mid-January “could be a really dark time for us.”