Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned of a ‘dark time’ in mid-January after Christmas and Hanukkah

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, sits ahead of a Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020
Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH, looks on before testifying at a Senate Health, Education, and Labor and Pensions Committee on Capitol Hill, on September 23, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Graeme Jennings – Pool/Getty Images)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said his holiday plans “dramatically changed” this year due to the Covid pandemic. He warned that Christmas could create another COVID-19 surge.

As hospitals await an increase in cases after Thanksgiving, he said, “For the first time in more than 30 years, I’m not spending the Christmas holidays with my daughters,” Fauci said during CBS News’ the Milken Institute’s Future of Health Summit Monday.

At this point, it’s too soon to fully see the effect that Thanksgiving travel and gatherings had on infections. Fauci said the “full brunt” will not be felt until the next week or week and a half, given the virus’ incubation period.

Speaking to CBS on Monday, Fauci warned that Americans are facing a “critical time” and the next potential surge over the holidays could lead to a dark January, “This may be even more compounded because it’s a longer holiday,” he said.

The U.S. set a record for COVID-19-related hospitalizations this month with more than 109,000 patients, and the number of people with the virus in ICUs has surpassed 21,200, as hospitals await a post-Thanksgiving surge in admissions and brace for more after Christmas and Hanukkah.

Staying home during the holidays, wearing a mask whenever you’re around people from outside your household and maintaining proper hand hygiene are the best ways to protect yourself and others, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Mid-January could be “a really dark time for us,” Fauci told Cuomo. (Cases could peak on Jan. 20, according to a new projection from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, or IHME, an independent global health research center at the University of Washington).

Risk factors to consider before attending a gathering include local community spread of COVID-19; exposure during travel; the location and duration of the gathering, and whether it’s indoors; the number of attendees and capacity for physical distancing; and attendees’ preventive behaviors before and during the gathering, such as mask wearing.

Another challenge going into the winter holidays is combatting “Covid fatigue,” Fauci said. “People are worn out of being shut down and not allowed to do things that they really would enjoy doing, particularly during the holiday season,” he said. But, “we’ve got to pull together, as difficult as it is,” Fauci said.

Fauci said that, depending on the “efficiency of the rollout, “the Covid-19 vaccines should be widely available to most Americans by spring. He said, it could be “sometime by the end of March, the beginning of April, that the normal healthy man and woman in the street who has no underlying conditions would likely get it.”

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