Dr. Fauci Just Said These 3 Things Are About to Make COVID Worse
This is what's likely to cause a spike in new cases.
The U.S. has seen COVID causes climb to new heights in recent weeks, and according to Anthony Fauci, MD, the country's top medical official, it's about to get even worse. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) appeared on CNN's State of The Union on Sunday, Dec. 27 to talk with host Dana Bash about the current state of the pandemic in the U.S. In the interview, Bash asked Fauci if he agreed with President-elect Joe Biden's warning that "the darkest days in our battle against COVID are ahead of us," and he confirmed he agreed. "When you're dealing with a baseline of 200,000 new cases a day, and about 2,000 deaths per day, with the hospitalizations over 120,000, we're really at a very critical point," he warned. Here's why he's sounding the alarm that the pandemic is about to get even worse. And for more on symptoms you should look out for, check out The Earliest Signs You Have COVID, According to Johns Hopkins.
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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged Americans to stay put for the holidays. "Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19," their website advises. "Airports, bus stations, train stations, public transport, gas stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces."
But Americans seemingly did not heed that warning. According to AAA, as many as 85 million Americans were expected to travel over Christmas, with 1.2 million being screened at airports on Dec. 23, TSA data showed. "There certainly is a danger," Fauci said regarding holiday travel. "You see pictures on the TV screens, Dana, of people at airports, crowded in lines, trying to stay physically separated but it's so difficult to do that." And for more of what's on Fauci's mind, check out The One Side Effect Dr. Fauci Is Worried About With His Next COVID Shot.
Mixing with people outside your household for Christmas
On top of the act of traveling itself, Fauci points out that people who traveled were going to visit folks outside of their household, another activity the CDC advised against. "In-person gatherings that bring together family members or friends from different households, including college students returning home, pose varying levels of risk," the CDC warns. "Hard choices to be apart this year may mean that you can spend many more years with your loved ones. … This year spend time with those in your own household."
In regards to mixing households, Fauci said: "As much as we advise against it, nonetheless it happens and that's one of the reasons why we're concerned about that being a real risk situation for the spread of infection."
He added that with hospitals nearing capacity and with the temptation too strong to gather for the holidays, the U.S. is at a pivotal point that could cause cases to soar. "If you put more pressure on the system … because of the traveling and the likely congregating of people for, you know, the good, warm purposes of being together for the holidays, it's very tough for people to no do that," he explained. And for more signs of the virus to be aware of, check out This Strange Symptom Could Be the Only Sign You Have COVID, Study Says.
New Year's Eve gatherings could make the situation worse
According to Fauci, another upcoming holiday could cause the numbers to get even worse: the upcoming New Year's Eve celebrations where people tend to gather with friends and alcohol can lead to poor judgment. The CDC notes that "the safest way to celebrate the new year is to celebrate at home with the people who live with you or virtually with friends and family. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others."
"The reason I'm concerned, and my colleagues in public health are concerned also, is that we very well might see a post-seasonal—in the sense of Christmas/New Year's–surge. And as I've described it, a 'surge upon a surge,'" he warned. "It's really quite troubling." And for more regular COVID updates, sign up for our daily newsletter.
But it'll be weeks before we'll see the effects.
Fauci warned that this combination of travel, social mixing, and congregating for New Year's Eve could create a perfect storm that we'll see the effects of in mid-January. "I share the concern of President-elect Biden that as we get into the next few weeks, it might get worse," he said. And for more on who's most at risk, check out If You Have This Blood Type, You're at a High Risk of Severe COVID.