Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, said his holiday plans "dramatically changed" this year due to the Covid pandemic.
"For the first time in more than 30 years, I'm not spending the Christmas holidays with my daughters," Fauci said during CBS News' the Milken Institute's Future of Health Summit Monday.
Fauci has three adult children with his wife, Christine Grady: Jennifer, 34, Megan, 31 and Alison, 28. They are "geographically scattered throughout the country," so traveling and congregating together is unsafe, he said. The family also skipped Thanksgiving celebrations last month.
At this point, it's too soon to fully see the effect that Thanksgiving travel and gatherings had on infections. Fauci said the "full brunt" will not be felt until the next week or week and a half, given the virus' incubation period.
But Covid spikes due to Christmas and Hanukkah will likely be more severe than Thanksgiving, because people are typically together for longer, often indoors and sharing food and drinks, Fauci said.
"You go through Christmas and Hanukkah, you go through the week between Christmas and New Year's, and then you have another celebration on New Year's," he said. "That extends that vulnerable period by two or three times what you do in Thanksgiving."
Staying home during the holidays, wearing a mask whenever you're around people from outside your household and maintaining proper hand hygiene are the best ways to protect yourself and others, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
It's clear that "even modest size gatherings of family and friends in a home" are contributing to spread, Fauci said. "We're starting to see infections that are emerging from what otherwise seemed like benign settings, namely a typical gathering of 10 or so people in a social setting," he said.
But in addition to the number of guests, it's important to consider where people are traveling from, and the infection rates in their areas, Fauci said during New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's coronavirus briefing Monday. Travel increases your chances of spreading or getting Covid, according to the CDC.
"You want to make sure you don't have people who just got off a plane or a train," Fauci said. "That's even more risky than the absolute number."
Mid-January could be "a really dark time for us," Fauci told Cuomo. (Cases could peak on Jan. 20, according to a new projection from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, or IHME, an independent global health research center at the University of Washington.)
Another challenge going into the winter holidays is combatting "Covid fatigue," Fauci said. "People are worn out of being shut down and not allowed to do things that they really would enjoy doing, particularly during the holiday season," he said.
But, "we've got to pull together, as difficult as it is," Fauci said.