Dr. Anthony Fauci on Wednesday warned that large holiday gatherings are unsafe even for fully vaccinated people who've received a COVID-19 booster shot.
Fauci, President Joe Biden's top medical adviser, spoke during a briefing at the White House.
"There are many of these parties that have 30, 40, 50 people in which you do not know the vaccination status of individuals," Fauci said. "Those are the kind of functions in the context of omicron that you do not want to go to."
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases added that fully vaccinated families — with booster shots — should be safe to attend smaller gatherings despite the surge in infections largely due to the omicron variant.
"There is no doubt that we are dealing with a highly transmissible virus," said Fauci, who added that data from South Africa suggests the variant shows a "decrease in the severity compared to delta, both in the relationship and ratio between hospitalizations and the number of infections, the duration of hospital stay, and the need for supplemental oxygen therapy."
He did add, however, that "we must wait to see what happens in our own [U.S.] population, which has its own demographic considerations."
Breakthrough infections are rising among the fully vaccinated population, including those who have had a booster shot.
On Tuesday, Fauci said U.S. health authorities were considering reducing the 10-day recommended quarantine period for Americans who test positive for COVID-19.
Reducing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 10-day quarantine recommendation would help asymptomatic people return to work or school, with the proper precautions.
"That's certainly an important consideration which is being discussed right now," Fauci told CNN.
Biden announced Tuesday the government would provide 500 million free rapid tests, increase support for hospitals under strain, and redouble vaccination and boosting efforts.
The announcement marked a major shift for Biden, who earlier had called for many Americans to purchase the hard-to-find tests on their own and then seek reimbursement from their health insurance.
For the first time, the U.S. government will send free COVID-19 tests directly to Americans, after more than a year of urging by public health experts.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this story.
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