The top US public health official urged Americans today make a “sacrifice now to save lives and illness” by resisting the urge to gather together for Thanksgiving, as the US witnessed more than 2,000 deaths from coronavirus on Tuesday – the first time that grim mark has been surpassed since the spring.
Anthony Fauci, the lead public health expert on the White House coronavirus taskforce and a leading official to every president since Ronald Reagan, said “that’s my final plea” before tomorrow’s traditional dinner celebrations.
“Keep the indoor gatherings as small as you possibly can. We all know how difficult that is because this is such a beautiful, traditional holiday. But by making that sacrifice you are going to prevent infections,” Fauci told ABC’s Good Morning America in a live interview on Wednesday morning.
Fauci, who has served as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, said that asymptomatic people who have Covid-19 innocently and “without malice” unwittingly infect people if they attend an indoor party or gathering, especially when taking their face mask off to eat and drink.
“The sacrifice now could save lives and illness and make the future much brighter as we get through this, because we are going to get through this. Vaccines are right on the horizon,” he said.
More than 2,100 deaths from coronavirus were recorded in the US on Tuesday. That is the highest 24-hour death toll in the US since early May. The previous record total was 2,603 deaths in a day in mid-April, when New York was the world’s coronavirus hotspot and many hospitals in New York City were overwhelmed.
More than 88,000 Americans are now in hospital across the nation with coronavirus, infections are almost at 12.6m and deaths in the US are on the brink of 260,000, the highest numbers in the world, according to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus research center.
Fauci’s urging came as Joe Biden, the president-elect, delivered a Thanksgiving address in which he talked about how his family has broken its tradition of traveling for the holiday.
“This year, because we care so much for each other, we’re going to be having a separate Thanksgiving,” Biden said. “I know how hard it is to forgo family traditions. But it’s so very important. Our country is in the middle of a dramatic spike in cases.
“We need to remember, we’re at war with the virus, not with each other,” he added. “We’re all in this together.”
Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine at George Washington University, described Thanksgiving to CNN as “potentially the mother of all super-spreader events”.
He added that: “One of the ways we think the midwest was seeded with virus over the summer was with the Sturgis, South Dakota, motorcycle rally, [in August] where people were infected and then dispersed out through the midwest. Now imagine that on a massive scale [over Thanksgiving], with people leaving from every airport in the United States and carrying virus with them.”
Fauci added that “it concerns me greatly” if Americans, including healthcare workers, express doubts about taking the vaccines that are approaching imminent approval in the US.
He said there were three vaccines, “maybe more”, coming on stream that are “highly efficacious” and people should have faith in a process of approval that is “transparent and independent”.
“We could crush this outbreak the way we did with smallpox, polio and measles,” he said.
Fauci said he has been talking to president-elect Joe Biden’s incoming chief of staff, Ron Klain.
The Trump administration agreed this week, three weeks after the election, to begin cooperating with the Biden transition team.
Tom McCarthy contributed reporting