As we head into our second holiday season of the COVID-19 pandemic, Anthony Fauci, M.D., shared some guidelines on how to safely celebrate with loved ones. Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview on Sunday that he fully supports family gatherings this year, with one major caveat: vaccination.
“I believe strongly that particularly in the vaccinated people—if you’re vaccinated and your family members are vaccinated…then you can enjoy the holidays,” Dr. Fauci told ABC News anchor Martha Raddatz on This Week. “You can enjoy Halloween, trick-or-treating, and certainly Thanksgiving with your family and Christmas with your family.” If you and your loved ones are fully vaccinated, Dr. Fauci said, “There’s no reason at all why you can’t enjoy the holidays in a family way, the way we’ve traditionally done it all along.”
Of course, children under age 12 still are not eligible to get vaccinated, as Dr. Fauci pointed out. None of the available COVID-19 vaccines have yet been authorized for use in that age group (although the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is expected to be authorized for use in kids ages 5–11 in the next couple weeks). Until then, young kids will continue to count on the people and communities around them for protection. “That’s one of the reasons we emphasize why it’s so important to get vaccinated,” Dr. Fauci said. “Not only for your own safety, for that of your family, but also for the good of the community to keep the level of infection down.”
Dr. Fauci’s latest guidance comes about a week after he endorsed trick-or-treating, and two weeks after the infectious disease experts made comments on holiday gatherings that he says were “taken completely out of context,” as SELF reported. Dr. Fauci was initially quoted as saying it was “too soon to tell” if families could spend the holidays together. He later clarified that he meant it was too soon to predict the state of the pandemic in December, and said he would encourage people, “particularly the vaccinated people who are protected,” to enjoy “good, normal” holiday celebrations with their families.
As the holidays approach, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also released its new guidelines on how to safely celebrate this year. And many of them echo the agency’s general guidelines for socializing and traveling.
Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is at the top of the list. The CDC points out the fact that holiday gatherings are often a multigenerational affair, meaning they may include young children (who are unvaccinated), as well as elderly adults (who are at higher risk of severe illness). So it’s prudent for those eligible to get vaccinated to do so before partaking in those get-togethers.
The CDC also reminds people that even fully vaccinated individuals are advised to wear masks in public indoor spaces if they live in communities where there is substantial transmission—or if they live with someone who is unvaccinated, immunocompromised, or at higher risk of severe illness. (Those who are unvaccinated or immunocompromised should always wear well-fitting masks in public indoor settings.)