Biden COVID-19 adviser: ‘There is not a safe Christmas party in this country right now’

CBS This Morning

A member of President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board is urging Americans to avoid large Christmas parties this year as health officials worry of a sharp spike in cases following the December holidays.

Speaking on CNN early Thursday, Michael Osterholm said people should only hold gatherings with people they’ve been quarantining with, or those with whom they’ve “podded.”

“At this point, no gatherings outside your immediate family that are in a sense podded together. What I mean by that is that the people who you have been with who haven’t had outside exposures. So if your son and daughter are coming home from college, they’re not part of your pod. Either they quarantine for 10 to 14 days, or they’re not part of what happens in the holidays,” he said.

“Don’t get together with neighbors. No Christmas parties,” he added. “There is not a safe Christmas party in this country right now unless everybody for the previous 10-14 days were podded.”

Osterholm’s warning comes amid an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths across the country that officials fear will worsen in the coming months as people travel for the holidays and gather indoors, where the virus can more easily spread.

“We have to say the next three to six weeks at minimum, longer, are our COVID weeks. We just have to get through this. Please, save a life, particularly the ones you love. And don’t get together for these holiday parties, holiday events. That’s the very best thing you can do to love someone today,” Osterholm said, saying the nation could see “a surge upon a surge upon a surge” during the holiday season.

The remarks reflect the stark differences in strategy by aides for Biden and President Trump. While officials with the Biden transition and members of his incoming administration have urged Americans to wear masks and avoid gatherings, White House officials, including Trump, have been more lax and more reluctant to press people to avoid meeting with friends and family.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidance last week urging Americans not to travel for Christmas. They CDC recommends that if people do travel, they should get tested one to three days before a trip and three to five days afterward. People who do not get tested should cut down on nonessential activities for 10 days after travel, it added.

Osterholm on Thursday panned the guidance as being too lenient, saying instead there should have been a blanket policy of urging people not to travel. 

“I think we just really have to tell the American public in hard language what’s happening here. And far too often I think we’ve tried to, you might say, split the middle,” he said.

“I have a real problem with the CDC’s recommendation with what to do over the holiday period. It’s nuanced, it’s basically saying, ‘Don’t get together, but if you are going to get together do these things.’ That’s like telling somebody, ‘Don’t drive drunk, but if you do drive drunk, these are the best ways to do it.’ We have to be really hard. I don’t care if I’m accused of being the Grinch that stole Christmas. But you know what? I want you to be around for the next Christmas and the next Christmas after that,” he said.

Tags Christmas and holiday season coronavirus pandemic Donald Trump Joe Biden Michael Osterholm

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