COVID-19 cases are dangerously high. So, perhaps, is COVID fatigue. Vaccines may be on the way, but Americans shouldn't let their guard down over the coming Christmas holiday, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious-disease expert. "I'm not saying at all that we need to cancel Christmas," Fauci told BuzzFeed News on Saturday. "What I am saying is that we need to be really careful." Read on to hear about the worst thing you could do right now, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
"We've got to not walk away from the facts"
In 49 states and the District of Columbia, COVID-19 cases are in the "red zone," meaning uncontrolled spread of the disease. In many areas, ICU capacity is near zero. More than a third of Americans live in areas where ICU availability is dangerously low.
Fauci and other health officials have warned against traditional small indoor gatherings this holiday season, a high-risk activity for COVID. He expressed concern earlier this week that Christmas gatherings could be riskier than Thanksgiving, because they tend to be longer, leading into New Year's.
"I think it can be even more of a challenge than what we saw with Thanksgiving," Fauci said. "So I hope that people realize that and understand that as difficult as this is, nobody wants to modify, if not, essentially shut down, their holiday season."
"But we're at a very critical time in this country right now," he added. "We've got to not walk away from the facts and the data. This is tough going for all of us."
This week, the CDC predicted that 15,800 to 27,700 people could die of COVID-19 in the week ending Jan. 9, with the total death toll potentially reaching 391,000.
On Saturday, Fauci urged Americans to continue wearing face masks and following public health guidelines, even if members of their family have gotten the COVID vaccine. That's because it takes several days to two weeks for the vaccine to build enough immunity to be effective, and it will be months before enough Americans can get the vaccine to achieve herd immunity.
"You can enjoy the family and the warmth of the holiday season and still stay safe and prevent yourself from getting infected by just doing some of the common things that we talk about; appropriate wearing of masks, trying to keep some physical distance," said Fauci during CNN's Sesame Street town hall.
Before Thanksgiving, Fauci urged every family to engage in a "risk-benefit" analysis about gathering for the holidays, and consider canceling plans to protect more vulnerable family members, such as the elderly, people with pre-existing health conditions, and people who may be immunocompromised.
Fauci, who will turn 80 on Christmas Eve, reiterated that he will be spending the holidays with his wife but no other family members for the first time in 30 years. His three daughters, he said, want to protect his health.
How to survive this pandemic
As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.