Watch CBS News

Fauci makes "final plea" to Americans before Thanksgiving

Millions ignore travel warning amid COVID-19 surge
Millions ignore travel warning amid coronavirus surge 04:24

With one day left before America celebrates a major family holiday, Dr. Anthony Fauci made a "final plea" for Americans to follow COVID-19 guidelines this Thanksgiving. The nation's top infectious diseases expert said anything less will trigger another surge in cases.

"To the extent possible, keep the gatherings, the indoor gatherings as small as you possibly can," Fauci told "Good Morning America" co-anchor George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday. "We all know how difficult that is because this is such a beautiful traditional holiday. But by making that sacrifice, you're going to prevent people from getting infected."

More than 85,000 Americans are hospitalized with the coronavirus, setting a new record for the 14th consecutive day, and the disease is killing more than 1,500 Americans every day, according to figures from the COVID Tracking Project. Nationwide spread has shown that no community is immune to becoming the next hot spot.

Fauci said people should avoid gathering with loved ones who are not part of their day to day lives. "If you bring people into the home who are not part of the immediate household, there is a risk there," he said.

"We know for sure that people who are without symptoms, innocently — with no malintention at all — goes to a party or goes to a gathering, gets together indoor, you let your guard down, you obviously have to take a mask off if you're eating or drinking," he said. "Try to avoid that as much as possible."

More than 1,000 hospitals across the country are now critically short of staff, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Hassan Taha of Stormont Vail Health in Topeka, Kansas, told CBS Evening News on Wednesday that his hospital does not have the beds to handle another surge. 

"What is worrying to me is two weeks from now Thanksgiving and having a lot of cases that will end up coming to us, or to other hospitals, and there's no beds," he said. Stormont Vail is at capacity with more than 100 COVID-19 patients.

Fauci urged people to keep up COVID precautions throughout the holiday season so the United States can ease restrictions once a vaccine is made available. 

Distribution of a vaccine could begin "soon after" a Food and Drug Administration panel meets on December 10 to consider Pfizer's application for an emergency use authorization, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday. Pfizer's vaccine, which appears 95% effective, will be evaluated by the FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee during the meeting.

Core groups like health care and essential workers will take priority for immunization. Azar said the administration expects the general public will be able to get vaccinated "by the second quarter of next year."

"Vaccines are right on the horizon," Fauci said Wednesday. "If we can just hang in there a bit longer and continue to do the simple mitigation things that we're talking about all the time: the masks, the distancing, the avoiding crowds, particularly indoor. If we do those things, we're going to get through it, so that's my final plea before the holiday."

Advice for safer Thanksgiving gatherings during pandemic 02:16
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.