Dr. Fauci: Just skip the family Thanksgiving celebration this year, m’kay?

Dr. Fauci is issuing a warning as we head into the holiday season this year – Thanksgiving will look different than other years. Or, he insists, it should. We aren’t finished with making personal sacrifices because of the coronavirus pandemic and Thanksgiving turkey with our extended families is another sacrifice to be added to an already long list.

Remember back in March when we were asked to halt our regular lives for just a short time, just long enough to flatten the curve and allow hospitals and medical facilities to keep pace with their incoming patients without being overwhelmed? Yeah, good times. Easter passed, Memorial Day weekend passed, the Fourth of July passed, and then Labor Day weekend passed. With each, we were warned to stay diligent, stay away from crowds, and protect ourselves from the plague. The goal of just flattening the curve turned into waiting until there are effective therapeutic drugs and a vaccine. Progress is being made on both those fronts but we aren’t quite there yet so our individual isolation measures are still in place.

People are looking ahead to the holidays. We know that Halloween is mostly canceled everywhere so the next holiday on the calendar is Thanksgiving. Planning menus and family get-togethers are part of what makes the holiday celebration special. It is a uniquely American holiday. Yes, I know that Canada does their own Thanksgiving but that doesn’t count. I’m kidding. Kinda. Macy’s has canceled its annual parade and now Dr. Fauci wants you to cancel your annual big family feast.

Fauci said Wednesday that Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for White House Coronavirus Task Force, has been out in the field looking at the increase in COVID-19 cases in households. He has decided to only spend Thanksgiving with his wife, not his adult children who all live in different states.

“She’s done an amazing job of traveling to different states trying to get a feel for what’s going on,” he told CBS News anchor Norah O’Donnell. Fauci said Birx told him: ”Household transmission now is assuming a greater element of the transmissibility. Don’t assume that because you’re in your own home with your own family that you’re not going to spread infection.”

Fauci said his three children have decided not to travel. “Thanksgiving is going to look very different this year,” he said. “I would love to have it with my children, but my children are in three separate states throughout the country and, in order for them to get here, they would all have to go to an airport and get on a plane. All three of them want very much to come home for Thanksgiving.”

“People should be very careful and prudent about social gatherings,” he added. “You may have to bite the bullet, and sacrifice social gatherings unless you’re pretty certain that the people you’re dealing with are not infected, or have very recently tested, or they’re living a lifestyle in which they don’t have any interaction with anybody except you and your family.”

Don’t assume that you and the people in your household you’ve been hunkering down with will not infect each other. But, in order to protect everyone, cancel the traditional gatherings this year. Everyone should just stay home and not travel, even adult children who would travel home for dinner with mom and dad. That means no Thanksgiving visits with the grandkids, too. Fauci says it’s a necessary sacrifice this year. The way things are going, we have no indication that the same recommendation will not be made next year, too. He is concerned about an increase in cases as the weather changes and people socialize more indoors than outdoors. Fauci says your family celebration could turn into a superspreader event. The indoor air circulating among everyone, including those who may have flown in for the holiday, could produce a hotbed for virus transmission.

Speaking on CBS News, Fauci also expressed concern about people going indoors to socialize due to the colder weather, and said that 50,000 daily new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are “an unacceptably high level.” The doctor added, “In the fall you’re seeing people doing more things indoors. That’s always a bad situation to be in when you’re dealing with a respiratory infection.”

If you do go ahead and invite people who do not live in your home to Thanksgiving dinner, Fauci says your guests should be screened. This is particularly important for members of the family who might be at a risk because of their age or their underlying condition. I think about all the older people who now live alone and are not able to visit their families because they are in a high-risk group. Spending the holidays isolated away from their loved ones sounds cruel but it is more understandable than isolating grown children from their parents who may not be in a high-risk group.

The CDC is enlisting the help of governors to get the word out.

“What we’re seeing as the increasing threat right now is actually acquisition of infection through small household gatherings,” Redfield said to state governors during a call. “Particularly with Thanksgiving coming up, we think it’s really important to stress the vigilance of these continued mitigation steps in the household setting.”

The CDC has published guidelines for celebrating the holidays through the end of the year. This tells us that Thanksgiving won’t be the last holiday we are going to be asked to cancel. Christmas is the next that will be on the list of things 2020 will ruin.

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