‘Strongly recommend’ staying away from New Year’s Eve parties: Is Fauci right?


Fact Box

  • On November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization announced a new COVID variant, Omicron (B.1.1.529), first reported from South Africa on November 24, 2021. Delta was the previous COVID variant. 
  • On December 27, 2021, on CNN, Dr. Anthony Fauci encouraged families to meet if vaccinated, but regarding New Year’s Eve parties, he said, “where you have 30, 40, 50 people celebrating, you do not know the status of the vaccination, I would recommend strongly: Stay away from that this year.” 
  • The Department of Health and Human Services reported 71,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations as of December 17, 2021 which compares to over 100,000 at the peak of the Delta variant. 
  • As of December 27, 2021, 204.7 million people have been vaccinated in the United States which is 61.7% of the population, while 72.7% have had at least one dose. 
  • Johns Hopkins research shows COVID spikes nationwide have been rising at a higher rate than before the vaccines were available despite more than half the country being fully vaccinated.

Andrew (Yes)

With New Year's Eve just shy of a week after many people have visited with extended families and friends for Christmas, Dr. Fauci has recommended people avoid large NYE gatherings. Health experts are already expecting a significant rise in coronavirus cases due to people gathering for Christmas celebrations. There is simply no need to make matters worse by mixing in large groups less than a week later, when many of those individuals may be contagious. While it is true that the vast majority of people seem to be having minor cases of the new Omicron variant, many hospitals around the country are near capacity and are canceling non-emergency procedures. Further, those who have chosen to be unvaccinated and those with underlying health issues could experience major illnesses.

Most NYE celebrations tend to be indoors. During January, much of the nation experienced bitterly cold weather, prompting us to stay inside with doors and windows closed. Unfortunately, this is precisely the type of situation where coronavirus, and particularly the new and much more contagious Omicron variant, spread easily. New Year's Eve parties are synonymous with people hanging out together in crowded indoor spaces for long hours, a dangerous situation with an easily transmissible virus on the loose. Also, NYE is a night fueled by large amounts of champagne and other libations, which have proven to wreck social distancing and good judgment.

Dr. Fauci's recommendation doesn't mean NYE is canceled; he simply recommends avoiding large groups. Smaller, more intimate gatherings with vaccinated people using appropriate testing will allow everyone to ring in the new year and stay healthy.

Noah (No)

Six in ten Americans are worn out by the impact of COVID-19 on their daily lives. This is not a partisan opinion: 64% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats feel this way. This is due in part to negative implications of the restrictions for the mental health and substance abuse problems in our society; 11% of American adults reported anxiety and/or depression in January of 2019. This number has grown to 41% in January of 2021.

The WHO reports the asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 is very rare. If one feels sick, they should stay home, letting those who are not exhibiting symptoms return to normal life. Furthermore, the Omicron variant is not as bad as the original virus when the first COVID restrictions were imposed in March of 2020, and the vaccines are effective against new variants.

In fact, the Australia Department of Health reports that of the Omicron cases, most have been mild or no symptoms. In the United States, 85% of 75+, 90% of 65-74, and 78% of 50-64 have been vaccinated. 61% of Americans are fully vaccinated, and 73% of Americans have received at least one dose. 

We know the vaccines work in reducing severe symptoms from catching the virus. We know asymptomatic people rarely spread COVID-19, and we know that COVID restrictions have had a negative impact on mental health in the US. We should not impose more COVID-19 restrictions on the healthy people who are not spreading it, vaccinated or not.

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