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Fauci: Large Holiday Gatherings Unsafe, Even for the Boosted

Even people who’ve received COVID-19 booster shots are taking a risk if they attend large holiday gatherings during the next few weeks because of the Omicron variant, the White House’s chief medical adviser says.

Speaking at a White House news briefing on Wednesday, Anthony Fauci, MD, said he and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, are often asked if it will be safe for people who’ve been vaccinated and boosted to gather with family in a home setting.

“The answer to that is: Yes. An extra level of protection would be the testing that Dr. Walensky mentioned,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“But I want to make sure this is not confused with going to a large gathering -- and there are many of these -- parties that have 30, 40, 50 people in which you do not know the vaccination status of individuals,” he said. “Those are the kind of functions, in the context of COVID and particularly in the context of Omicron, that you do not want to go to.

“So, to the extent possible, we urge you to stay away from those situations that could put you at a higher risk.”

Speaking at the same news briefing, Walensky urged Americans to take precautions.

“Let me reiterate those four prevention measures for you: Get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high-risk community transmission, and take a test before you gather,” she said.

Walensky said deaths and COVID case counts are rising.

The 7-day daily average of cases is about 149,300 per day, a 25% increase over the previous week, she said. The 7-day average of hospitalizations is around 7,800 per day. The 7-day average of deaths is about 1,200 per day, a 3.5% increase over the prior week.

The Omicron variant now makes up 73% of new COVID cases in the nation, Walensky said.