The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rolled back guidance it put out over the weekend for holiday gatherings and travel.
“The page had a technical update on Friday, but doesn’t reflect the CDC’s guidance ahead of this upcoming holiday season,” the CDC said in a statement to several news outlets. “CDC will share additional guidance soon.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a White House official and one of the nation’s top infectious disease experts, walked back on his own comments, saying now that it would be “too soon to tell” whether it was safe to gather for the holidays. “I will be spending Christmas with my family. I encourage people, particularly the vaccinated people who are protected, to have a good, normal Christmas with your family,” he said on Monday.
Largely mirroring guidance floating around last holiday season when vaccines were scarce, CDC officials in its prior guidance had said “the safest way to celebrate is virtually, with people who live with you, or outside and at least 6 feet apart from others.”
“Attending gatherings to celebrate events and holidays increases your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19,” the now-yanked CDC guidance said.
If the gatherings are indoors and in-person, the CDC said in its prior guidance that doors and windows should be opened and window fans turned on to increase ventilation. It also recommended the COVID-19 vaccine, to have masks on hand and to wear them in crowded indoor public settings, and outdoor settings in places where there’s a surge of the virus. Those not fully vaccinated should also wear a mask, the CDC added.
As of Oct. 5, the CDC website link for “Holiday Tips” directed web users to the COVID-19 vaccination main page.
[I]f it’s your family and you know your vaccination status, and you’re getting around a table for Thanksgiving dinner, I think it’s out of bounds for us to say you’ve got to … wear a mask, don’t have dinner.
– Gov. Phil Murphy
The CDC did not address Halloween, where activities like trick-or-treating and parties are common. But Gov. Phil Murphy cautioned Oct. 4 that if there were outbreaks from Halloween, they would more likely come from crowded indoor social gatherings.
“We were open for business last Halloween, we’re open for business this Halloween,” Murphy assured. The concern, he said, is “this several-month period where it’s one holiday after another … the key will be how people behave when they’re inside.”
Murphy, who is facing reelection in less than a month, has so far held off reinstating COVID-19 restrictions, like mask mandates for indoor and outdoor public settings, and capacity restrictions on businesses and private gatherings.
He denied that politics or his elections were at all factored into his decision-making.
He added during his COVID-19 press conference that it would be “out of bounds” for the state to have restrictions on private holiday gatherings.
“So, if it’s your family and you know your vaccination status, and you’re getting around a table for Thanksgiving dinner, I think it’s out of bounds for us to say you’ve got to … wear a mask, don’t have dinner,” he said.
“We lose credibility if we’re being seen to be draconian when it completely defies common sense,” he said of potential restrictions. “I don’t see why if you know everyone’s status you can’t sit down and enjoy dinner together, so that [guidance] is not coming from me.”
With COVID-19 restrictions widely lifted and millions of New Jerseyans still not vaccinated, the daily level of cases and the total number of COVID-19 patients have risen to their highest level in months. Now, with the combination of colder weather and frequent holiday gatherings, state health officials are worried about the potential for COVID-19 spikes this fall and winter.
“It’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will be spreading this fall and winter,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said on Monday.