People who met family over Thanksgiving should assume they have COVID-19, get tested, and wear a mask at home, White House advisor Dr. Deborah Birx said

Joshua Roberts/Getty ImagesDr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force.
  • Americans who met with anyone they don’t live with over Thanksgiving should assume they have COVID-19 and get tested, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force says.
  • Thanksgiving gatherings could cause a fourth surge of the virus, or a wave within a wave, Dr. Deborah Birx told CBS on Sunday.
  • Families should also wear masks indoors “if they chose to gather during Thanksgiving and others went across the country or even into the next state,” Birx said.
  • Millions of families across the US were expected to gather to celebrate the holiday. The day before Thanksgiving was the busiest day for air travel since March 16.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Everyone who met with people from outside their household over Thanksgiving should assume they have COVID-19 and get tested in the coming week, Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

She also appeared to suggest that families who split up for Thanksgiving should wear masks in their home.

Experts are “deeply concerned” about the impact of Thanksgiving travel on COVID-19 rates in the US, she warned, adding that it could cause already-high case counts to spike.

“If you’re young and you gathered, you need to be tested about five to 10 days later,” she said. “But you need to assume that you’re infected and not go near your grandparents and aunts and others without a mask.”

She also said families living in the same household should also wear masks indoors “if they chose to gather during Thanksgiving and others went across the country or even into the next state.”

She later added, without the reference to young people: “If your family travelled, you have to assume that you were exposed and you became infected and you really need to get tested in the next week.”

Many people met relatives over Thanksgiving, including some who travelled to different states, Birx said, adding that “people may have made mistakes.”

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention had warned against holiday travel, but about a third of Americans in an Insider survey before the holiday said this didn’t affect their plans.

The day before Thanksgiving was the busiest air-travel day since March 16, and it was also the day when the US recorded its highest single-day coronavirus death toll since early May.

After Memorial Day in May, cases in the US surged, Birx said — but this was over a lower baseline than right now, with fewer than 25,000 new cases a day.

The daily case number is now more than seven times higher that, at about 180,000, she said.

She echoed the view of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious-disease expert in the US, that the post-Thanksgiving rise in cases could cause a peak within the current surge.

“What we expect, unfortunately, as we go for the next couple of weeks into December, that we might see a surge superimposed upon that surge we’re already in,” Fauci had told NBC’s “Meet the Press” earlier Sunday.


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Birx also urged Americans to take personal responsibility for reducing the spread of the virus, even if their state didn’t have a mask mandate or a rule to limit gatherings in public spaces such as restaurants.

“To every American, this is the moment to protect yourself and your family,” she said.

Birx praised the impacts of mask mandates, which she said could make a “significant difference” in hospitalisation levels and the number of fatalities.

Alongside these mandates, she added that states and counties should close or reduce the capacity of spaces where people cannot wear masks, such as bars and indoor restaurants.

She pointed to Arizona as a place that got control of the virus from closing bars and restaurants, and she recommended that the state consider closing them again amid the current rise in cases.

She also said her team hoped to brief the incoming Biden administration on Monday. This will primarily involve discussing how best to share data.

She said she was briefing Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, every day, but she didn’t respond to a question about when she last met with President Donald Trump.

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