Dr. Fauci Has an Urgent New Warning for Vaccinated People
Last year, the winter season brought on a massive COVID surge as people moved indoors and gathered for the holidays against expert recommendations. Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 196 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated—a precaution that wasn't widely available in 2020. But while that might seem like reason enough to celebrate the way we did pre-pandemic, COVID is still circulating at high rates throughout the U.S., and cases are rising. There were nearly 90,000 new cases reported in the last week, which is an increase of more than 16 percent from the week prior, according to the CDC. With another potential surge on the horizon, vaccinated people shouldn't let down their guard completely, health officials caution.
Top White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, recently said that there may be reason for you to wear your mask during upcoming Thanksgiving celebrations. According to Fauci, you should wear a mask if you are traveling to an indoor gathering and are not certain if the people around you are vaccinated.
"When you are in a situation where you are traveling, for example, and you are in an indoor, congregate setting, and you don't know the vaccination status of people, you need to wear a mask," Fauci told CNN's Dana Bash on the Nov. 21 episode of State of the Union.
If you and your guests are all fully vaccinated, however, Fauci said it's perfectly fine to ditch the masks this holiday season. "That's what I'm going to do with my family," Fauci told Bash, as his entire family is vaccinated. "And that's what I think people should do … That's the whole point we keep getting back to. That is the safety net, is vaccination. Take away the anxiety. Take away all the concern about what you should do or not."
The infectious disease expert has also been advising vaccinated people to get their booster shot for added protection, especially now that all adults in the U.S. are eligible to get one. "We know they're safe and we know they're highly effective in bringing very, very high up the optimization of your protection," Fauci said. "So, just go ahead and get boosted. Now's the time to do it. As we're getting into the holiday season, you want to be fully protected in the sense of getting optimal [protection]."
He added, "For the people who are vaccinated, the people who can get boosted, enjoy your holiday season with your family, indoors, grandparents, children. Do it."
On the other hand, if you're not vaccinated at all, the holidays might need to look a little different for you. "Obviously, if you're not vaccinated, you're in a situation where you're more vulnerable to getting infected," Fauci explained. "Get vaccinated, and you can enjoy the holidays very easily. If you're not, please be careful. Get tested if you need to get tested when you're getting together. But that's not a substitute for getting vaccinated."
Some attendees might not have had the chance to be fully vaccinated before the Thanksgiving holiday, as the CDC only just authorized the pediatric Pfizer vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old on Nov. 2. But according to Fauci, it's not too late to make sure these kids are adequately protected before the next major holiday.
"Looking ahead to Christmas, right now, since we can vaccinate children from 5 to 11, you start vaccinating them now, they will be fully vaccinated by the time we get to the Christmas holidays. And that's what we should be thinking about," he told Bash.