Fauci advises people to think critically about holiday plans

As the coronavirus pandemic worsens, D.C. area leaders are urging the public to avoid holding a big, in-person Thanksgiving gathering this year.

And Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said there are already troubling trends that could worsen if traditional celebrations are held.

“Right now today, in mid to late November, we’re finding that innocent occurrences, such as groups of friends and family meeting indoors because of the cold weather for dinner, are becoming a major source of asymptomatic spread,” Fauci said in a virtual lecture to the University of Virginia School of Medicine on Wednesday.

“That seems to be driving infections much more so now than the more obvious settings of bars and other places,” he said.

Fauci said there’s good reason to think carefully about your holiday plans.

“Families need to make an individual decision based on those in the family that might be vulnerable, such as [the] elderly and those with underlying conditions.”

Another thing to keep in mind is what Fauci called one of the most unusual aspects of COVID-19.

“About 40 to 45% of infected people are without symptoms. And we know now from modeling studies that a substantial proportion of transmissions occur from an asymptomatic person to an uninfected individual, which makes contact tracing all the more problematic, particularly when you have a high degree of community spread the way we have right now,” he said.

Fauci also talked about the experimental COVID-19 vaccines that are in development, including Moderna’s, which appears to be almost 95% effective.

“Of note, in that trial a question had been asked, ‘Does it really protect against severe disease’? In that trial, there were zero severe cases in the vaccine group, and 11 severe cases in the placebo group.”

Once federal regulators approve a vaccine, Fauci said it’s crucial that people get it.

“That is going to be a challenge because as shown here in a recent survey published in Science … Fifty percent of Americans plan to get the vaccine, but what about the rest?”

The survey, conducted in May, found 40% of Black people and 23% of Hispanic people do not plan to be vaccinated, and 32% of Black people and 37% of Hispanic people were not sure if they would get vaccinated.

“This is something that we must address by outreach in the community by individuals that the community actually trusts,” Fauci said.

Fauci’s presentation was the UVA School of Medicine’s 2020 Hayden-Farr Lecture in infectious diseases.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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