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Fauci warns of a rise in Covid infections after Christmas

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Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, speaks to Alex Azar, the unpictured Secretary for Health and Human Services (HHS), before receiving the Covid-19 vaccine from Moderna Inc. during an event at the NIH Clinical that Center Masur Auditorium in Bethesda, Maryland, the United States, on Tuesday, December 22, 2020. The National Institutes of Health are hosting a livestream vaccination event to kickstart the organization's efforts on behalf of their frontline workers. Photographer: Patrick Semansky / Associated Press / Bloomberg via Getty Images

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Dr. Anthony Fauci warned on Sunday that an already soaring tide of coronavirus infections could get another surge as Americans reunite for Christmas and New Years despite warnings from health officials.

"We could very well see an increase after the season – in the sense of Christmas, New Year – and, as I have described it, as an increase after another," Fauci said of CNN's State of the Union.

Fauci, a White House advisor and one of the foremost infectious disease specialists in the country, was optimistic about the pace of vaccine distribution, which began this month after federal regulators approved two drugs made by Pfizer and Moderna.

But he said he agrees with President-elect Joe Biden's assessment, who warned Tuesday that "our darkest days in this fight against Covid are ahead, not behind".

"I share President-elect Biden's concern that things may actually get worse in the next few weeks," said Fauci.

According to a CNBC analysis of the data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the United States saw an average of 189,578 new Covid-19 cases per day and 2,250 deaths over the past week. It is possible that these numbers are undercounted due to a decline in holiday coverage.

"When you're dealing with a baseline of 200,000 cases per day and 2,000 deaths per day in hospitalizations over 120,000, we are really at a very critical point," said Fauci.

Fauci said "Travel and the likely gathering of people for good, warm purposes to be together for the holidays" is adding to the pressure on the deepening crisis.

He also addressed a mutation in the coronavirus identified in the UK, saying, "We are looking at it intensely now." Doctors in that country have said the mutation appears to be spreading faster, causing a number of countries to suspend travel off the block. In the US, those flying out of the country will have to test negative for Covid-19 as of Monday.

Initial evidence suggests the mutation does not affect the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccine and that it is not a "more serious virus in terms of virulence," Fauci added.

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Steven Gregory