Fauci Says No One Wants to 'Shut Down' Christmas over COVID, but This Is a 'Critical Time'

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government's top infectious disease specialist, has said that no one wants to "shut down" Christmas due to the pandemic but warned that the holiday period is looking like a "critical time."

Fauci told CNN on Monday he was more concerned about the Christmas holiday period than Thanksgiving as the U.S. reached a new record for people hospitalized with COVID-19.

"My concerns are the same thing of the concerns that I had about Thanksgiving only this may be more compounded because it's a longer holiday," Fauci said. "With Thanksgiving, it was the end of the week and you go back to work the next week. With Christmas it starts several days before. It goes through Christmas. The week after Christmas into New Year's and the New Year's holiday."

"I think it could be even more of a challenge than what we saw with Thanksgiving. So I hope that people realize that and understand that as difficult as this is, nobody wants to modify—if not essentially shut down—their holiday season, but we're at a critical time in this country right now. We've got to not walk away from the facts and the data. This is tough going for all of us."

On Sunday, the U.S. reported 101,487 coronavirus hospitalizations, as well as 176,771 new coronavirus cases and 1,138 deaths, according to the COVID-19 Tracking Project.

"Averaged across the last seven days, each of our core metrics is at record levels," the Tracking Project tweeted on Monday. "The Northeast now has more hospitalizations per capita than the South did at the peak of the Sunbelt surge. Meanwhile, the slight easing we hoped we were seeing in the Midwest looks real for now."

Newsweek recently spoke to experts who said that people mixing with people outside their household over the Thanksgiving period—despite advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention not to—could soon lead to a spike in the number of new cases across the country.

"The outlook is grim," Jennifer Dowd, associate professor of demography and population health at the University of Oxford, told Newsweek. "The virus thrives on precisely the type of social contact that Thanksgiving is about—multiple households coming together, eating and talking indoors for long durations without masks."

"The virus travels when people travel, so Thanksgiving can also bring the virus from higher prevalence areas to lower prevalence areas and seed new surges."

In an interview with NBC News last week, Fauci said we likely won't see the full impacts of the Thanksgiving holiday until two to three weeks after.

"I think we have not yet seen the post-Thanksgiving peak," Fauci told NBC. "That's the concerning thing because the numbers in and of themselves are alarming and then you realize it is likely we'll see more of a surge as we get two to three weeks past the Thanksgiving holiday."

"And the thing that concerns me is that's about right on the Christmas holiday as people start to travel and shop and congregate. That's the reason why we plead with them to please, as best as you can, uniform wearing of masks, keep distances to the best possible way you can, avoid crowds and congregate settings, particularly indoors, and if you are indoors in that circumstance, always wear your mask."

Anthony Fauci
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci listens during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing in the James S. Brady Briefing Room of the White House on November 19, 2020. Fauci has said no one wants to "shut down" Christmas over COVID, but this is a "critical time." BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images