Health experts urge against Thanksgiving gatherings as coronavirus cases explode nationwide

“If you look at the map of spread across the country, you can see the

“If you look at the map of spread across the country, you can see the risk; it’s very visible. And moving through airports or travel hubs, I think that will increase people’s risk,” Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Even if they’re driving from point to point, unfortunately, we don’t know if we’re infected when we walk into a gathering.”

He referred to recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said most infections are spread by people with no symptoms. The CDC, during its first news briefing in months on Thursday, recommended against traveling and gathering for Thanksgiving and said people should instead celebrate in their own households.

“The message for everyone is: You can’t assume you don’t have the virus, and you can’t assume the people whose homes you’re about to enter don’t have the virus at this point in our pandemic,” Inglesby said.

For those who plan to travel and gather with others for the holiday, he recommended keeping gatherings small, spending as much time outdoors as possible if weather permits, keeping mealtimes short, wearing masks indoors and removing masks only while eating.

Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said individuals should do a “risk-benefit assessment” and evaluate whether they have family and friends who may be particularly vulnerable to the virus.

“When you think of the holiday season and the congregating indoors at what are innocent, lovely functions, like meals with family and friends, you have got to at least think in terms of evaluating — do you have people in your family that are elderly, that might have underlying conditions, like someone on chemotherapy, or other things that weaken their immune system?” Fauci said during an interview that aired Sunday on NBC News’s “Meet the Press.”

In an interview on CBS News’s “Face the Nation,” Fauci said he understands many Americans are experiencing “covid fatigue” after more than eight months of pandemic restrictions, but traveling over the holidays and ignoring public health guidelines are “going to get us into even more trouble than we’re in right now.”

“That’s the wrong decision, because vaccines are coming, and they’re going to be available relatively soon,” he said.

More than 1 million people went through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints in airports across the country on Friday, according to data released daily by the agency, and more than 980,000 travelers were screened Saturday. The number of travelers screened Friday was the second-highest single-day rush since March 16.

Fauci referred to “some very, very promising information regarding at least two vaccine candidates that have a very high degree of efficacy” and suggested while cases continue to explode, people should heed public health measures until the vaccines become available.

“Help is on the way,” he said on “Meet the Press.”

“Traditionally and historically, highly efficacious and effective vaccines have crushed epidemics like smallpox and polio and measles,” Fauci added. “We can do that with the vaccines that are going to be coming online. So we should make them be … an incentive to have us double down even more with public health measures until we get the full component of the help that’s on its way.”

Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to the White House’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine effort, said Sunday the federal government will be ready to start shipping vaccines within 24 hours after a candidate receives emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

He noted the CDC and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) must review the data and make recommendations on who should be prioritized to get immunized first.

“We will have the vaccines there the next day after approval, and, hopefully, people will start to be immunized, I would say, within 48 hours from the approval,” Slaoui said on ABC News’s “This Week.”

Slaoui is referring to a several-step process for the vaccine rollout. Once the FDA authorizes a vaccine, the government plans to “preposition” doses to sites that states have already designated as the places where shots will be given first. That is expected to happen within 24 hours of FDA action.

A day or two after the FDA action, ACIP is expected to meet and vote on final recommendations for who should get the vaccine first. Those recommendations can be sent immediately to the CDC director, and once the director signs off on them, the vaccination process can begin.

Pfizer filed for emergency authorization for its vaccine on Friday. The FDA has announced a committee of external advisers will meet Dec. 10 to make recommendations to the agency on whether to authorize Pfizer’s vaccine. Slaoui said the advisers will meet Dec. 17 to review the shot developed by Moderna, which has not yet filed for clearance for its vaccine.

In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Slaoui projected that about 70 percent of the U.S. population will need to be immunized for true herd immunity to occur.

That would probably happen around May, based on public health officials’ current plans, Slaoui said.

“Most people need to be immunized before we can go back to a normal life,” he added.

Laurie McGinley contributed to this report.

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