The headlines no one wants to see are here: COVID-19 cases are rising again, and with them hospitalizations and, soon, experts predict, deaths. How can you stay safe—particularly if you’re planning on being with extended family over this Thanksgiving holiday? Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition to help keep you alive. Read on for 5 life-saving pieces of advice—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
“Would you go so far as to tell people maybe not to gather indoors in large numbers this weekend?” asked host Steve Inskeep. “Well, again, you’ve got to be careful, Steve, when you say large numbers,” answered Fauci. “Certainly family gatherings, particularly people who are vaccinated and boosted – and such a large proportion, particularly of the elderly now, have received at least one dose – more than 99%. And 86% or so have received both doses of a double dose. So the elderly seem to be protected. Hopefully they got boosted because we know that the immunity diminishes as months go by. But I would not want to see people just not gathering together with their family, particularly if the family is vaccinated, primarily, and also boosted. You can take the extra precautions….something like getting tested, if you want to go that extra step towards being safe. It isn’t a requirement that you should not go indoors with anyone unless you’re tested. But for those who may be in a situation where you’re with people at a higher risk, you might want to take that extra step.”
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Scaling back mask mandates during a winter wave—good idea? “It adds an extra degree of risk. You really have to balance things. You have to understand – and we totally understand how people feel. But if you look at the dynamics of the virus in the community now, this past week, the average daily case was over 90,000. The hospitalizations are up 29%. The deaths, thank goodness, are down. But they are usually a lagging indicator. The cases, again, and the hospitalizations are both up – cases up 29%, hospitals up 6%. When you have a dynamic like that, Steve, you really got to be careful. Masks are not going to be forever for sure. The more people that get vaccinated, the more people that get boosted, the lower the level of infection in the community will be. And then you start thinking about pulling back on masks.”
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Dr. Fauci was asked when we can finally ditch masks—and by extension, get to the end of this pandemic. “It’s tough to predict, Steve,” said Fauci. “When you do, you always get into trouble. I’m hoping as soon as we possibly can. I hope now that we have a situation where we have people who can get primarily vaccinated. We now have boosters for everyone over 18 years old. Children 5 to 11 – 28 million of them – are now eligible. If we do a good job in getting the overwhelming majority of that cohort vaccinated, we very well may have a situation where the cases go down, and we could say no mask. I hope that that’s as we get through the winter and into the spring. But you can’t guarantee it. This virus has fooled us before. It’s a very wily virus, this Delta variant.”
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“Well, the science says that it is inconsistent, the level of protection. You certainly can have a degree of protection. You don’t want to walk away from that. It’s the truth. If you get vaccinated and you recover and you have a degree of immunity, you get a good deal of protection. What we don’t know is how durable it is. But what we do know, Steve, that’s really important – that if you get infected, recover and get that degree of immunity and then get vaccinated, the level of your protection is the highest of any of the situations. So if you really want to be fully protected – better than any kind of vaccination is if you do get infected, to then after that wind up getting vaccinated.”
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Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.