Fauci: Remarks on Christmas gatherings were 'misinterpreted'

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFDA advisory panel scheduled to discuss Merck COVID-19 antiviral pill Feehery: Build back bipartisan Overnight Health Care — Presented by The National Council on Mental Wellbeing — Merck asks FDA to authorize five-day COVID-19 treatment MORE said Monday that his comments about it being "too soon to tell" whether it is safe to gather for Christmas were "misinterpreted" and that he in fact encourages people to do so.

"The best way to assure that we'll be in good shape as we get into the winter would be to get more and more people vaccinated," Fauci, the government's top infectious diseases expert, said Monday on CNN. "That was misinterpreted as my saying we can't spend Christmas with our families, which was absolutely not the case. I will be spending Christmas with my family, I encourage people, particularly the vaccinated people who are protected, to have a good, normal Christmas with your family."

At issue is a comment Fauci made Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation." Asked by host Margaret Brennan if "we can gather for Christmas, or it's just too soon to tell," Fauci replied, "You know, Margaret, it's just too soon to tell."

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"We've just got 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 added at the time.

The comments drew blowback from some Republicans. Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb had also offered a differing take when asked about Fauci's Sunday comments on CNBC.

"Nothing's going to stop us from getting together," Gottlieb said, saying "people should just be prudent" and use testing, particularly if they have older family members or young kids.

Fauci said Monday that he was referring to uncertainty around what the overall state of the pandemic would be in December, not uncertainty about whether gathering with family would be safe.

Fauci had originally been asked by Brennan: "We're going into cold weather. We're going into the holidays. Do people need to start looking around and saying it's just too risky to gather with family members if there are unvaccinated children?"

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He said Monday on CNN that there is still uncertainty around the overall state of the pandemic going forward but that getting more people vaccinated can help keep the current downward trend in cases going.

Cases are falling from their peak but are still at more than 100,000 per day, with almost 2,000 people dying per day, according to a New York Times tracker. Unvaccinated people are at far higher risk, and make up the bulk of those dying.

"The one thing we do have within our power to do is to make sure that there are less and less cases and that diminishing slope that's going down continues to go down," Fauci said. "And the way we can do that is by getting more and more people vaccinated."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance this month that if people do have indoor holiday gatherings, opening windows and doors and putting a fan in the window can improve ventilation and cut down on the spread of the virus.