- White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said small gatherings on New Year’s Eve with family and close friends pose a low risk if everyone in the gathering is vaccinated and promoted.
- New York City has imposed a capacity limit of 15,000 people on its annual celebration in Times Square.
- Los Angeles has canceled plans for its New Year’s Eve live audience, opting to stream it instead.
- London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo and other cities around the world have also canceled events.
White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday that Americans should avoid large parties on New Year’s Eve because a highly transmissible omicron variant drives US COVID cases to the highest level in the pandemic.
However, Fauci said small gatherings with family and close friends pose a low risk if everyone in the gathering is vaccinated and promoted if they are eligible.
“If you plan to go to a 40-to-50 person New Year’s Eve party with all the bells and whistles and everyone hugging and kissing and wishing each other a Happy New Year’s Eve Lets — I strongly recommend that, this year, we do not do that,” Fauci said during a White House update on the pandemic.
His remarks come at a time when cities are curtailing their New Year’s Eve celebrations. New York City has imposed a capacity limit of 15,000 people on its annual celebration in Times Square.
The event typically attracts 58,000 people. All attendees are required to provide proof of vaccination.
Los Angeles has canceled plans for its New Year’s Eve live audience, opting to stream it instead. London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo and other cities around the world have also canceled events.
Fauci said it is now “incontrovertibly” clear that Omicron is highly permeable. According to Johns Hopkins University data, COVID infections across the country have reached a pandemic high, a seven-day average of more than 265,000 new cases per day. The previous high mark was 252,000 average daily cases on January 11, 2021, before vaccines were widely distributed.
Dr. Rochelle Valensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that Omicron has led to a rapid increase in large-scale Kovid infections. However, Valensky said hospitalizations and deaths have not risen sharply for now.
Fauci said all indications so far suggest that Omicron causes milder disease than the delta variant, which was the dominant strain in the US during the fall. However, he cautioned that it is not clear whether minor infections are occurring as a result of pre-existing immunity, or if the Omicron variant is inherently less virulent than Delta. Fauci warned that even if Omicron is less severe, the variant could quickly spread to hospital systems across the country.
Omicron came to the attention of the world just as the busy holiday season got underway in the US on Thanksgiving. Due to uncertainty over many people’s plans to gather with family and friends, the version has since made a splash in the US.
Americans have rushed to test over the holidays, preparing for a surge in demand that has overwhelmed supply chains. Pharmacies are struggling to keep home tests in stock, lines at clinics are sometimes hours long in cities like New York and manufacturers are struggling to make enough tests.