Dr. Fauci Makes Thanksgiving Plea to Stop Large Gatherings As Millions Ignore CDC Advice to Stay Home

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the U.S., top scientist Dr. Anthony Fauci has reiterated his plea for Americans to avoid large Thanksgiving gatherings.

Millions are traveling for the holiday despite the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has urged people to stay home and postpone celebrations, or hold them virtually over the internet.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a prominent figure on the White House coronavirus task force, has warned that families who gather in large numbers risk infecting loved ones.

"I don't want to be the grinch that stole Thanksgiving but what we are learning, sadly now, is that a lot of the new infections are occurring [in homes]," he told GBH News.

The infectious diseases expert noted that many people will not have symptoms, which could lead to the false assumption they are healthy or not contagious. This situation may be made worse as college students travel home for the holiday.

"It is extraordinarily likely in some locations where the percent positivity is so high that an innocent, well-appearing person in that little congregation you are having over the house for a social setting is infected," Fauci said in an interview Wednesday.

He added: "When you take your mask off to eat and have a glass of wine, and talk in a lively manner because everyone's happy, that's how infections get spread."

While many appear to have ignored the advice of health experts who say travel could increase the chances of getting COVID-19, the virus shows no sign of slowing. On Wednesday, states reported 183,000 new cases and 2,284 deaths.

According to the COVID Tracking Project, 90,000 people are currently in hospital with the virus in the U.S., with that figure reaching a new high for the 16th consecutive day. The U.S. death toll on Wednesday was the highest since May 7 and the 7th highest total to date.

Today's death total is the highest since May 7. It is also the 7th highest daily death total to date. pic.twitter.com/hyHlT3D98a

— The COVID Tracking Project (@COVID19Tracking) November 26, 2020

Nationwide, there have been more than 12.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 262,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Fauci has repeatedly urged people against travel, but Transportation Security Administration data has revealed that up to 5 million people passed through airport checkpoints between November 20 and November 24.

"To the extent possible, keep the gatherings, the indoor gatherings, as small as you possibly can," Fauci said on Good Morning America on Wednesday.

"We all know how difficult that is because this is such a beautiful traditional holiday. But by making that sacrifice, you're going to prevent people from getting infected."

Multiple vaccines for the disease are in development, with experts predicting that some doses could be available by the end of this year. However, treatments are still undergoing clinical trials and scientists are advising against complacency.

"If we can just hang in there a bit longer and continue to do the simple mitigation things that we're talking about all the time: the masks, the distancing, the avoiding crowds, particularly indoors. If we do those things, we're going to get through it, so that's my final plea before the holiday," Fauci told Good Morning America.

In his interview with GBH News, Fauci revealed his own plans for Thanksgiving: "I will have it with my wife alone in our house, with our three daughters Zooming in."

Dr. Anthony Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has urged Americans to avoid large gatherings over Thanksgiving. Tasos Katopodis/Getty