The nation’s most visible infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci spent Monday walking back comments he made on Sunday about whether families should gather at Christmas because of the continued spread of COVID-19.
“The best way to assure that we’ll be in good shape as we get into the winter would be to get more and more people vaccinated,” Fauci said Monday, according to The Hill. “That was misinterpreted as my saying we can’t spend Christmas with our families, which was absolutely not the case. I will be spending Christmas with my family, I encourage people, particularly the vaccinated people who are protected, to have a good, normal Christmas with your family.”
On Sunday when asked by CBS “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan whether it was “too soon to tell” whether people should gather for Christmas, Fauci said it was.
“We’ve just got to [concentrate] on continuing to get those numbers down and not try to jump ahead by weeks or months and say what we’re going to do at a particular time,” he said.
What about the children?
Brennan had particularly mentioned children who can’t yet get vaccinated as being at risk from gatherings, asking, “Do people need to start looking around and saying it’s just too risky to gather with family members if there are unvaccinated children?”
No vaccine has yet been approved for children under age 12, although Pfizer says it is close to asking for approval for ages 5 to 11.
But children have been going to school five days a week in most of the country, so they are already exposed to larger groups on almost a daily basis.
Additionally, their rates of hospitalization and death from the virus have been extremely low compared to adults. As of late July, only 358 children were reported to have died from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic out of more than 650,000 deaths overall at that time.
CDC advises virtual holiday celebrations
The CDC seems to agree with Fauci’s original comments, however, and has renewed its recommendation to have “virtual” holiday celebrations rather than in-person ones.
If in-person gatherings are desired, the CDC said, outdoors is preferred. People should be vaccinated, social distance and open windows for ventilation if they opt for indoor gatherings, according to guidance. Mask guidance should also be followed.
The recommendations seem out of touch as many people have gone back to more normal activities including eating in restaurants, going to movies and even attending sporting events and concerts since vaccinations have become widely available.
After a surge in the virus due to the delta variant, both new cases and hospitalizations are down around 30% since late August, which appeared to be the peak for the variant.