'You may have to bite the bullet': Fauci says Thanksgiving may be very different in 2020

The way we celebrate Thanksgiving this year will be "unfortunate" and will cause "concern" for some, Dr. Anthony Fauci said.


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Thanksgiving gatherings pose a risk of continuing to spread the coronavirus, and one of the nation's leaders in the fight against the pandemic is urging people to carefully consider their options.

In an interview with CBS News' Norah O'Donnell, Dr. Anthony Fauci says that in most cases, people should limit Thanksgiving gatherings to only those you know have had limited contact with others or have been "very recently tested" for COVID-19.

"You may have to bite the bullet and sacrifice that social gathering unless you're pretty certain that the people you're dealing with are not infected," Fauci said.

Fauci told O'Donnell he will not be getting together for Thanksgiving with his children, who live in different states, because they would have to fly, potentially exposing them to the virus at airports and on planes.

“That’s really an unfortunate fact that is going to cause, obviously, some concern for everyone who looks forward to the holidays and interacting with family members they haven't seen in a while," he said.

Fauci's comments come just days after White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx warned a crowd in New Hampshire about the risk of spreading the virus as we get deeper into fall and approach the holidays.

During a stop Monday at Plymouth State University, Birx warned that although most people under 35 will be asymptomatic, that doesn't stop the risk of spreading COVID-19 to more vulnerable people.

"This virus can spread among families and friends if you take your mask off and you are primarily indoors," she said.

Birx said families should keep Thanksgiving gatherings small, and everyone should wear masks while indoors.

Related video: Dr. Deborah Birx warns of new threats going into fall

The warnings from Birx and Fauci coincide with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offering new guidance this week on holiday gatherings.

Among the lower-risk activities the CDC recommends for Thanksgiving are having dinner with only those who live in your home, cooking family-favorite recipes and delivering them to others in a contactless way and doing your holiday shopping online.

Higher-risk activities include attending parades, attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside your home or going shopping in crowded stores just before, on or after Thanksgiving.

As of Thursday morning, Johns Hopkins was reporting nearly 8 million coronavirus cases and more than 217,000 deaths in the U.S. since the pandemic began.

Data from Johns Hopkins shows a recent uptick in positive cases, with more than 30 states reporting increases from the previous week and the average number of new cases steadily increasing nationwide.

"We went down to the lowest point lately in early September, around 30,000-35,000 new cases a day," Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN this week. "Now we're back up to (about) 50,000 new cases a day. And it's going to continue to rise."

The increase in cases combined with the risk of further spreading around the holidays makes for an "unfortunate" situation, Fauci said.

"That's such a sacred part of American tradition, the family gathering around Thanksgiving," Fauci said.

"I think given the fluid and dynamic nature of what's going on right now in the spread and the uptick of infections, I think people should be very careful and prudent about social gatherings."