Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s most prominent expert on infectious diseases, is warning Americans not to travel over the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays. Fauci’s warning comes as new data reveals Americans didn’t heed his pleas to stay home this Thanksgiving, with just a 5% reduction in vehicle traffic on U.S. roads compared to the Thanksgiving holiday of 2019. The expert advice also comes while the U.S. breaks more records for covid-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations.
“We’re in for a very, very difficult couple of months of December and January,” Dr. Fauci told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Thursday, encouraging people to stay home this Christmas. “Having said that, there are things we can do about it. You don’t have to shut down the entire country. But there are four or five fundamental public health things that we all can do.”
Fauci listed things like the universal wearing of masks, avoiding close contact with people you don’t live with, and avoiding crowds, particularly indoors. If people follow his advice, Fauci says, a lot of lives can be saved over the coming weeks and months.
“We don’t have to lock down the economy over Christmas and over Hanukkah. But we can do some fundamental public health measures that will make a difference,” Fauci said.
Fauci went on to explain that you can compare different countries or even just different U.S. states along with how many of those common sense guidelines they’ve followed to see significant differences in the health impacts. Fauci didn’t name specific countries or states, but as a few examples, Australia recorded just 16 cases yesterday, mostly in Australians returning from foreign countries; Vietnam recorded just three cases; and New Zealand recorded nine new cases yesterday—with every single one of those cases coming from New Zealanders landing from overseas. Everyone who lands in Vietnam, Australia, and New Zealand has to quarantine before they’re allowed into the general population.
“Help is on the way. We’re going to be giving vaccines towards the middle and end of December,” Fauci said. “So if we could just hang on and do those fundamental public health measures to try and blunt some of these surges, ultimately we can get out of this.”
The U.S. recorded 2,857 new deaths from covid-19 on Thursday and over 216,000 new cases over a 24-hour period, according to data from the New York Times, both new single-day records. There are currently over 100,000 Americans hospitalized with covid-19, another record. The U.S. has identified over 14.2 million cases and more than 276,000 deaths from the disease since the pandemic began earlier this year, the worst figures of any country in the world.
Dr. Fauci warned before Thanksgiving that Americans should stay home and not visit friends or family you don’t live with, but it looks like very few people followed his advice. While air travel was down significantly this year compared to Thanksgiving of 2019, automobile traffic was almost unchanged. Travel by car for Thanksgiving this year was down just 5%, according to a new report from the Associated Press and StreetLight Data.
Fauci has certainly made mistakes during this pandemic (and we’ve called them out here at Gizmodo), but Americans really need to listen to him this holiday season. There is light at the end of the tunnel if people can just hang in there for a couple more months as vaccines are approved and distributed.
Unfortunately, there are still people who believe the covid-19 pandemic is some kind of “hoax” with some people so radicalized by that notion they refuse to believe they’ve contracted the coronavirus right to their dying breath. If those people can’t be converted to the ways of science and logical public health thinking, then nothing will. But there’s still hope for you and yours if you can just muster the strength to keep safe as best you can in the next few months.
The U.S. government, led by President Donald Trump, has failed its people on virtually every level when it comes to this pandemic—from the lack of financial relief funds to porous “lockdowns” that weren’t really lockdowns—but there are still things you can do to fight back against this terrible disease. Number one: stay home for the holidays.
As Dr. Michael Osterholm, a health advisor of president-elect Joe Biden, often says on his podcast, tell your family that this is our “covid year” and you’ll see them in 2021. Even if they’re upset with the news, just know that you’re doing the right thing. You could be literally saving their life.