Dr. Anthony Fauci, who serves as chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said Sunday it is “too soon to tell” whether Americans should gather for Christmas in a couple months.
“It’s just too soon to tell,” he said during an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” noting the changes that could still occur in the year. “We have to concentrate on continuing to get those numbers down and not try to jump ahead by weeks or months and say what we’re going to do at a particular time.”
He went on to tell host Margaret Brennan that Americans should instead “focus like a laser on continuing to get those cases down,” which he said can be accomplished through vaccination.
“Also, in the situation where boosters are appropriate, to get people boosted, because we know they can help greatly in diminishing infection and diminishing advanced disease,” added Fauci, who also serves as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The comment, reminiscent of last year’s rhetoric, was met with swift condemnation.
Sean Parnell, a combat veteran currently running for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, suggested someone tell Fauci “that we celebrated Christmas together with our families last year [and] are going to do it again this year.”
Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Texas) noted that, since former President Barack Obama hosted a massive birthday party in Martha’s Vineyard this summer, “the American people can celebrate the holidays with family.”
“Alabama, Penn State, and LSU all had 100,000 fans packed into their stadium yesterday,” wrote sports commentator Joe Pompliano. “Yet Dr. Fauci still says it’s ‘too soon to tell’ if we can gather for Christmas this year. We are living in two different realities right now.”
In the wake of intense backlash, Fauci seemed to change his tune Monday morning.
Fauci claimed during an appearance on CNN that his words were “taken completely out of context” and “misinterpreted as my saying we can’t spend Christmas with our families.”
“I will be spending Christmas with my family,” he said. “I encourage people — particularly the vaccinated people who are protected — to have a good, normal Christmas with your family.”
Last December, Fauci announced he would not be spending Christmas with his children and urged other Americans to make a similar “painful” choice. He said that while some families will still gather, it is “really somewhat risky” and encouraged people to “do a modified version” of a full family gathering for the holidays.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended last Christmas that Americans avoid traveling for the holiday season. Henry Walke, the COVID-19 incident manager for the CDC, said “the best thing for Americans to do in the upcoming holiday season is to stay home and not travel,” The Hill reported.
And Michael Osterholm, who served as one of Biden’s COVID-19 advisers ahead of his inauguration, said “there is not a safe Christmas party in this country right now unless everybody for the previous 10-14 days were podded.”
According to the latest data from the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, there have been a cumulative 43.4 million COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and 697,734 deaths attributed to the virus. In the U.S., around 396 million vaccine doses have been administered, according to Bloomberg.
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