The United States hasn’t seen the full impact that Thanksgiving gatherings likely will have on rising Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Monday.
“The blip from Thanksgiving isn’t even here yet,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS’ Norah O’Donnell during the Milken Institute Future of Health Summit.
“So we’re getting those staggering numbers of new cases and hospitalizations before we even feel the full brunt of the Thanksgiving holiday,” Fauci said. Health experts warned before the holiday that Americans should gather virtually rather than risk exposure.
As the US nears an average of 200,000 Covid-19 cases a day, experts say “behavior and cold weather” are behind the current surge gripping American communities.
“People are going indoors, they’re not minding the three W’s,” Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar told Fox News’ Chris Wallace on Sunday. “Our advice is always the same. Wash your hands, watch your distance, wear face coverings.”
Health experts have long warned that the holiday season would bring a spike in coronavirus cases as people increasingly gather indoors. As of Sunday, the US averaged 196,233 new cases over the past week, another record high, according to a CNN analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
More than 14.9 million confirmed cases have been reported in the US since the pandemic began, and more than 283,000 people have died.
And with the recent spike in cases, record hospitalizations have followed. On Monday, 102,148 patients were in the hospital with the virus, according to the Covid Tracking Project – the sixth consecutive day the US surpassed 100,000 hospitalizations.
The Thanksgiving surge could begin to show itself in the coming week, Fauci said, because it generally takes about two and a half weeks from the time of the event until a surge in new positive test cases and potential hospitalizations.
“The problem is, that’s going to come right up to the beginning of the Christmas, Hanukkah potential surge,” he said.
The middle of January “could be a really dark time for us,” he added.
For his part, Fauci said he plans to observe the holidays differently this year.
“For the first time in more than 30 years, I’m not spending the Christmas holidays with my daughters,” Fauci said.
No guidance yet on being vaccinated if you already had Covid
It’s unclear whether Americans who have had Covid-19 and have antibodies to the virus should get a vaccine, Azar said Monday.
“That’s something that the FDA has not ruled on and CDC has not ruled on, yet, in terms of providing guidance,” Azar said during an interview with NBC.
Azar clarified that he was not saying people who have had the virus and recovered either should or should not get vaccinated. “I have actually explicitly asked the FDA for advice on this question because it has come up,” he said.
In fact, it came up at an Operation Warp Speed meeting, according to Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams.
“Right now, we don’t know how long people’s antibodies are going to last,” Adams told Fox News. “And we know that in the studies they vaccinated people who did have antibodies, and so it’s not going to harm you, based on what we know about the vaccines, if you’ve had the virus and you get vaccinated again.”
Adams encouraged people who have recovered to donate plasma. “Convalescent plasma is a treatment out there that has potential to really help individuals recover if they’ve gotten Covid, particularly in this surge,” he added.
States reporting records with the worse still to come
Before vaccines can be distributed widely to residents, states must contend with the surge on top of a surge experts say is coming after the holidays.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said the state just underwent “our highest week to date.” The state reported 10 confirmed deaths, a positivity rate of 9.75% and 2,567 new cases as of Sunday evening – the second-highest for a Sunday in Kentucky.
While the rate of growth appeared to be slowing, he said, it is still unclear whether data will show “a Thanksgiving surge” later this week.
New Jersey and California saw record highs for cases reported in one day. New Jersey reported 6,046 Sunday, topping the previous all-time high recorded Friday, according to Gov. Phil Murphy.
In the more populous California, the record high was more than 30,000 cases on Sunday. The state also reported an all-time high for hospitalizations with 10,624 patients, according to the California Department of Public Health.
The increase has pushed some states to take aggressive measures, including about 33 million Californians under new stay-at-home orders.
And in Maine, which has the second-lowest total of reported cases per capita, the number of infections since October 31 has more than doubled, according to data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
CNN’s Steve Almasy, Dakin Andone, Jaqueline Howard, Eric Levenson, Hollie Silverman, Ganesh Setty, Anna Sturla, Naomi Thomas and Laura Ly contributed to this report.