CDC Reveals Christmas Gathering Guidelines Amid Pandemic, Increasing COVID-19 Cases

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its guidelines for Christmas during the coronavirus pandemic, and they are very similar to those released for Thanksgiving last month. The CDC is once again asking Americans not to travel and to get COVID-19 tests before and after their trip. Michael Osterholm, a member of President-elect Joe Biden's coronavirus advisory board, criticized the plans, calling them too "nuanced."

In its Christmas guidelines, the CDC advises Americans to hold virtual celebrations or to only celebrate with those in their household because that "posts the lowest risk for spread." Gatherings with family members or others who are from different households "pose varying levels of risk," the CDC notes. People who have been exposed to COVID-19, show symptoms, are waiting for test results, may have been exposed to someone with COVID in the past two weeks, or are at increased risk of a severe illness from the coronavirus should not attend any gatherings, the guidelines note.

"The best thing for Americans to do in the upcoming holiday season is to stay at home and not travel,'' Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC's COVID-19 incident manager, said during a news briefing Wednesday, reports USA Today. "Cases are rising. Hospitalizations are increasing. Deaths are increasing. We need to try to bend the curve, stop this exponential increase." Anyone who does travel should get a test one to three days before leaving, then again another three to five days after travel, Walke explained. Those who travel but do not get tested should cut down on nonessential activities for 10 days after traveling.

After the CDC released its guidelines, Osterholm, an infectious diseases expert from the University of Minnesota, told CNN he had a "real problem" with the recommendations. "It’s nuanced, it’s basically saying, ‘Don’t get together, but if you are going to get together do these things,'" Osterholm said Thursday. "That’s like telling somebody, ‘Don’t drive drunk, but if you do drive drunk, these are the best ways to do it.’ We have to be really hard. I don’t care if I’m accused of being the Grinch that stole Christmas. But you know what? I want you to be around for the next Christmas and the next Christmas after that." Osterholm said there is "not a safe Christmas party in this country now" unless everyone at the party spent 10 to 14 days with the other people at the party.

The CDC recommendations on Christmas come as the number of coronavirus deaths and cases continue to skyrocket at alarming rates. On Wednesday, 3,049 coronavirus-related deaths were reported, according to Johns Hopkins University. This was the first time the U.S. reported more than 3,000 deaths from the virus in a single day, notes CNN. The U.S. is now averaging 2,230 new death reports each day. Over 289,000 Americans have died from the virus since the pandemic began.