“If you’re in a situation where you have people who are vulnerable and you really want to be safe with them, you might want to not bring them together into a big dinner or a big gathering,” Fauci said. Al Drago/AFP via Getty Images, filadendron/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, 79, is not having Thanksgiving dinner with his family this year. 

“That doesn’t mean everybody should be calling Thanksgiving off,” he said, but many should consider it.

Both Fauci and the CDC’s Dr. Robert Redfield have already warned that small gatherings are driving an uptick in coronavirus cases around the country. 

“That’s the exact scenario that you’re going to see in Thanksgiving,” he said. 

Ultimately, people have to weigh the risks of coming together for Thanksgiving this year for themselves. 

The CDC says the safest way to do Thanksgiving is to limit it to “only people who live in your household,” but that doesn’t mean you can’t connect, virtually, to cook, or celebrate with loved ones from afar. 

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Dr. Anthony Fauci says he doesn’t want to “be the Grinch that stole the holidays” but he suggests you may want to reconsider the risks involved in getting together with friends and family outside your household, if you’ve been planning a Thanksgiving meal as usual this year. 

“Take a look at what the risk is to your particular situation,” Fauci told JAMA editor in chief Howard Bauchner during a Q&A on Wednesday afternoon. “If you have people like elderly, or individuals who are compromised because of underlying conditions, you want to take a couple of steps back and say, is it worth it for this year to bring those people together when you don’t know what the status of everybody in that pod that you’ve created is?”

Fauci’s concern is backed up by recent data from around the US that suggests a Thanksgiving dinner among extended family and friends could be the perfect place for the virus to spread, invisibly, to new hosts. 

“If you look around the country now, many of the infections are in small family and friend gatherings, such as dinner parties and small social gatherings,” he said. 

Fauci said he frequently talks to people working around the country “in the trenches” of the coronavirus outbreak, and this is a worrisome pattern they’re beginning to detect, everywhere from Chicago to New Orleans, LA, Seattle, and New York. It’s an infection trend that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield also highlighted, earlier this month.

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Increasingly, as it gets colder and people congregate inside, more cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, are springing from small gatherings in homes. The same issue could easily play out, around dinner tables across the country, on November 26. 

“These innocent family and friends gatherings: six, eight, 10 people come together in someone’s home, you get one person who’s asymptomatic and infected, and then all of a sudden four or five people in that gathering are infected,” Fauci said. “That’s the exact scenario that you’re going to see in Thanksgiving.”

‘That doesn’t mean everybody should be calling Thanksgiving off’

Never one to get preachy, Fauci says ultimately assessing your own COVID-19 risk, and the risk of those you’d like to share a Thanksgiving meal with, is up to you.

“That doesn’t mean everybody should be calling Thanksgiving off, of course not,” he added. “But if you’re in a situation where you have people who are vulnerable and you really want to be safe with them, you might want to not bring them together into a big dinner or a big gathering where you have the possibility of a high risk of infection.”

Some of Anthony Fauci’s neighbors, with one of their “Thank you Dr. Fauci!” signs in Washington, DC on August 3, 2020. Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Fauci, who is 79, and therefore in a high-risk category, is not doing his typical family Thanksgiving this year. 

“Dad, you know you’re a young, vigorous guy,” Fauci said his daughters told him, during a recent interview. “But you’re 79 years old.”

So even though he and his wife would “love for them to come home for Thanksgiving,” it’s not happening.

Instead, his three daughters told him they’d Zoom in from their various spots around the country, and then he’ll have a “nice quiet dinner,” perhaps inviting over one neighbor, who he sees often, so long as the pal tests negative first. 

The CDC suggests, in a similar manner, that the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to have a small dinner with “only people who live in your household.” Or, maybe you’re willing to accept a little more risk, and it’s warm enough for a small outdoor dinner with a few people who live nearby.

“Large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household,” or bubble, are not advised by the CDC. But if you opt to stay away, physically, from the people you love this November, there are plenty of virtual experiences to try out. You could buy the same ingredients and bake a favorite dish together, virtually, videochatting with family from around the country, or try your hand at art or music classes popping up online, which could also be a group activity for extended family members to join together in from afar.

“People are going to have to make that decision based on what they feel is the best thing for the safety of themselves and their family,” Fauci said. 

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