White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci recommended Monday that Americans “stay away” from large New Year’s parties this year due to a spike in COVID-19 cases caused by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
“When you are talking about a New Year’s Eve party, 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,” Fauci told CNN. “There will be other years to do that, but not this year.”
The increase in cases, and fears of subsequent strain on hospitals, has led New York City officials to cap attendance at 15,000 for Friday night’s Times Square ball drop, as well as require that attendees be vaccinated and wear masks.
Earlier Monday, Fauci also suggested the implementation of a vaccination mandate for domestic air travel after millions took to the skies to celebrate the holidays this year.
“If you’re making a requirement for vaccination for people to get on planes who are coming into the country, that’s understandable. You don’t want to bring more cases into the country,” he told MSNBC. “If you’re talking about requiring vaccination to get on a plane domestically, that is just another one of the requirements that I think is reasonable to consider.”
“You know, there’s requirements that you might want to get if you want to get into college, where you want to go to a university or you want to work in certain places,” Fauci added. “When you make vaccination a requirement, that’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated. If you want to do that with domestic flights, I think that’s something that seriously should be considered.”
In an interview with ABC News’ “This Week” Sunday, Fauci said that a vaccination requirement for travel “is just another level of getting people to have a mechanism that would spur them to get vaccinated … anything that could get people more vaccinated would be welcome.”
Last week, President Biden told ABC “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir that a vaccination requirement for domestic travel had been “considered” by his administration.
“The recommendation I’ve gotten [is] it’s not necessary,” said the president, who confirmed that remained the case “even with Omicron. That’s the recommendation I got so far from the team.”
In his “This Week” interview Sunday, Fauci came out firmly against the idea of scrapping mask mandates for air travel, saying such a move “is really not something we should even be considering.”
“We want to make sure people keep their masks on,” Fauci told host Jonathan Karl.
Earlier this month, the CEOs of Southwest Airlines and American Airlines questioned the need for masks, touting the ability of air filtration systems in planes to protect passengers from the deadly virus.
“I think the case is very strong that masks don’t add much, if anything, in the air cabin environment. It is very safe and very high quality compared to any other indoor setting,” Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly told lawmakers during a congressional hearing.
“I concur,” added Doug Parker, the head of American Airlines.
“An aircraft is the safest place you can be. It’s true of all of our aircraft — they all have the same HEPA filters and airflow,” he said.
More than 2,000 flights were canceled over the Christmas weekend as airlines struggled to replace staffers who came down sick with COVID-19.
The cancellations continued to disrupt travel Monday morning.
By Mark Moore