coronavirus

Are there new covid-19 restrictions during winter and Christmas in the US?

As the US suffers record numbers of daily covid deaths both the CDC and Dr Fauci recommend exercising caution over the festive season to keep friends and family safe.

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Are there new covid-19 restrictions during winter and Christmas in the US?
KENA BETANCUR AFP

As Christmas draws near the vaccine breakthrough has given reason for hope but the spiralling case numbers and death toll mean that this will be a bleak mid-winter for many Americans. The United States is in the midst of the deadliest phase of the pandemic and while pharmaceuticals will bring an end to coronavirus in the long-term there are more immediate measures required to keep fatalities to a minimum.

On Thursday the US surpassed 17 million coronavirus cases after a winter surge of over one million infections a week. Close to 250,000 new cases were reported on Wednesday alone and with over 3,600 deaths in 24 hours it became the deadliest day of the pandemic to date.

With thousands of Americans dying every day government officials and public health experts recommend exercising extreme caution this Christmas. There have not yet been any nationwide changes to the rules but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called on people to “consider how your holiday plans can be modified to reduce the spread of covid-19 to keep your friends, families, and communities healthy and safe”.

CDC issues new guidance on reducing covid-19 risk this Christmas

The CDC is the main governmental body issuing advice on pandemic precautions and they have advised that celebrating virtually or restricting gatherings to single households is the best way to keep friends and family safe this Christmas. However if you are planning to host a small in-person event there are a number of factors to consider.

Community levels of covid-19 – If the event location is currently experiencing high or rising levels of coronavirus cases there is a serious heightened risk of infection. The same is true if guests are travelling from high-risk areas, so the CDC recommend finding the latest information on the local health department website or on CDC’s Covid Data Tracker County View.

Exposure during travel – Places frequented by travellers, such as airports, bus stations, train stations, public transport, gas stations and rest stops, carry a particularly high risk of infection.

Location of the gathering – Outdoor gathering are known to be considerably safer than indoor gatherings, particularly those with poor ventilation.

Duration of the gathering – If you are intent on meeting people the briefer the better. Being within 6 feet of someone who has covid-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk of transmission.

Risk of crowds at the gathering – There are no specific guidelines on the number of attendees but the more people in attendance results in greater chance of infection for everyone there. Crowding is a particular danger and attendees from different household should maintain a social distance of 6 feet, and wear masks and wash hands regularly.

Behaviours of attendee prior to the gathering – Before attending a gathering it is important that guests consistently adhere to social distancing, mask-wearing, handwashing and other coronavirus protocols before the event.

Behaviours of attendees during the gathering – Preventative measures on the day will be vital to ensuring that the risk is minimised for all in attendance. Guests should be encouraged to practice mask-wearing, social distancing and handwashing, with facilities provided for them to do so.

Fauci says some restrictions are necessary to keep friends and family safe

In November the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, predicted that the following months would see infections rate rise during a dangerous winter period. He and many other advised against travelling for Thanksgiving but there has been a considerable rise in cases in subsequent weeks.

 

“I think we are going to have to make decisions as a nation, state, city and family that we are in a very difficult time, and we’re going to have to do the kinds of restrictions on things we would have liked to have done, particularly in this holiday season, because we’re entering into what’s really a precarious situation,” Fauci told NBC in late November.

Earlier this week Fauci gave an interview to The Washington Post, revealing that he will not be spending Christmas with his children this year for the first time. Fauci, who turns 80 on Christmas Eve, told the Post that it was necessary while America deals with “a big problem”.

“They are not going to come home. That’s painful. We don’t like that. But that’s just one of the things you’re going to have to accept as we go through this unprecedented challenging time,” he said.