Fully vaccinated family members can “absolutely” enjoy the holidays together inside without wearing masks despite rising infections rates across most of the nation, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday.
“Absolutely ... that's what I'm going to do with my family," Fauci said on CNN's State of the Union. "And that's what I think people should do. ... Get vaccinated and you could enjoy the holidays very easily."
Fauci, President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, also said booster shots are not required to be fully vaccinated – but that public health officials are continuing to monitor the data.
"The vaccines themselves clearly are still highly effective, but you want to make sure the durability of that protection is longer," Fauci said. "We know no vaccine lasts forever.”
Fauci urged unvaccinated Americans to get jabbed and help prevent a “dangerous” new surge of infections over the holiday season. After weeks of steady declines, new infections are now on the rise in 38 states. About 60 million eligible Americans still have not been vaccinated, he said.
"That not only is dangerous and makes people who are unvaccinated vulnerable, but it also spills over into the vaccinated people," Fauci said.
Also in the news:
►Mississippi’s state of emergency order related to the coronavirus expired as Republican Gov. Tate Reeves cited increased vaccine numbers and declining hospitalizations.
►Nearly 6,100 people a day are now testing positive for COVID-19 in New York state, up 22% from earlier this month.
►A federal judge in Rhode Island could rule this week on a request from some health care workers to block the state’s requirement that people working in the medical profession be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
►Vaccine protections starts to fade at around six months, data shows. The good news is that COVID-19 booster shots are now available to all adults in the U.S. Here is what you should know about boosters.
📈Today's numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 47.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 771,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 257 million cases and 5.1 million deaths. More than 195.9 million Americans – 59% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘What we're reading: Governments that embrace a testing option instead of mandatory vaccination believe it creates a safe work environment and gives reluctant employees to opt out of the vaccine. But it's costly.
Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY's Coronavirus Watch free newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.
Disney pauses mandatory vaccination policy to align with Florida's new law
Walt Disney World has paused its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a series of restrictive laws last week punishing companies that don't let workers opt out of vaccine requirements. Disney said more than 90% of Disney World "cast members" have been vaccinated. Ignoring the law could be costly: Fines of up to $50,000 per violation for large companies and $10,000 for smaller businesses. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney World employed more than 70,000 workers.
"We believe that our approach to mandatory vaccines has been the right one as we’ve continued to focus on the safety and well-being of our cast members and guests," Disney said in an email. "We will address legal developments as appropriate."
Carl Tobias, the Williams Chair in Law at the University of Richmond School of Law, told USA TODAY that legal challenges to the Florida law could take months or longer. A federal court has stayed the OSHA emergency standard that could have preempted the Florida law, and that litigation in appeals court may not be resolved until 2022 – after which the case could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, Tobias said.
Buttigieg: Mandate won't slash TSA staff during Thanksgiving travel rush
About 4 million federal workers must be vaccinated by Monday under the president’s executive order aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus. That includes Transportation Security Administration employees staffing airports across the nation for the Thanksgiving travel rush. But Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told NBC's "Meet the Press" that won't be a problem; close to 99% of the workers are either fully vaccinated, in the process of doing so, or have applied for an exemption. People who have not fulfilled the requirement aren't immediately being pulled off their posts, Buttigieg added.
"From a federal perspective, you know, the deadline tomorrow, that's not a cliff," Buttiegied said. "It's part of a process to make sure that everyone in the federal workforce is safe."
New infections heading higher ahead of Thanksgiving holiday
As Americans prepare for their second coronavirus pandemic Thanksgiving, the virus is inviting itself to more tables. Cases appear to be rising in 38 states week-over-week, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. That number may be somewhat blurry because of Veterans Day disrupting testing. But hospitals in 36 states are reporting more COVID-19 patients than a week earlier, 30 states admitted more COVID-19 patients during the latest week, and 29 states have more patients in ICU beds. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show 2,364 counties, or about three-quarters of them, are showing high levels of community transmission. Just 92 counties have low levels.
One brighter sign: Last year the United States reported about 1.2 million cases in the week ending Nov. 20. This year, it's about 650,000.
– Mike Stucka
Tennessee's new COVID law is back in court
Tennessee continues to insinuate masks don't work and the task of keeping kids safe from COVID-19 in schools is an individual, not community, task, according to legal arguments in federal court. Judge Waverly Crenshaw is deciding whether he will issue a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of a new state law's provision prohibiting schools from implementing mask mandates except in extremely rare circumstances. It comes on the heels of three other cases across the state – one in Crenshaw's court – over the state's approach to masking in schools.
The state argues that with the advent of vaccines, the increased availability of at-home tests and some promising treatment options, parents have the option to find a way to send their kids to school – or not – without impacting others. Parents of eight children with disabilities, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, argue school isn't equivalent to deciding whether to stay home from a birthday party. Read more.
– Mariah Timms, The Nashville Tennessean
Defense Department sends nurses to overwhelmed northern Colorado
The Colorado COVID-related worker shortage is so severe at UCHealth that a medical response team of about 20 nurses, providers, respiratory therapists and administrators from the Department of Defense will be deployed to Poudre Valley Hospital beginning this week. The team will stay for about a month and to support hospital staff and patients and ease capacity and staffing challenges, according to a news release. As of Thursday, UCHealth had 373 hospitalized COVID-19 patients across the state; 99 were in UCHealth hospitals in northern Colorado, according to the health system.
“We are so grateful that this team will assist us in providing exceptional care in northern Colorado,” Kevin Unger, chief executive officer of UCHealth in Northern Colorado, said in the release. "We anticipate this additional support and other plans we already have in the works will help make a significant difference.”
– Pat Ferrier, The Fort Collins Coloradoan
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Vaccinated can enjoy maskless Thanksgiving, Fauci says. COVID news.