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Millions of Americans set to ignore warnings against Thanksgiving travel

Experts urged Americans against traveling for family gatherings at Thanksgiving this week even though millions were set to defy the advice, as the US crossed the threshold of more than 12m cases of coronavirus.Ominous warnings came as Donald Trump appeared to admit that coronavirus is “running wild” across the US, in contrast with his statements…

Experts urged Americans against traveling for family gatherings at Thanksgiving this week even though millions were set to defy the advice, as the US crossed the threshold of more than 12m cases of coronavirus.

Ominous warnings came as Donald Trump appeared to admit that coronavirus is “running wild” across the US, in contrast with his statements throughout the election campaign that the virus would simply “go away” or “disappear” and, more recently, that the country was “rounding the turn” on the pandemic.

As new Covid-19 infections in the US approached 200,000 a day, Trump tweeted on Saturday night to insist things were bad outside the United States as well, posting: “The Fake News is not talking about the fact that ‘Covid’ is running wild all over the world, not just in the US.”

On Sunday, Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious disease expert in the US and top public health official on the White House coronavirus taskforce, said the country was in “a very, very difficult situation at all levels” with infections rising dramatically.

He followed up official government advice on Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to Americans not to travel and gather with relatives and friends at the Thanksgiving holiday this coming Thursday.

Fauci said that, more than the risk of flying itself, it was busy airports that made him more concerned.

“You are at a crowded airport, you are lining up, not everybody is wearing masks. That puts yourself at risk … that’s what’s going to get us into even more trouble,” he said.

Fauci warned of “seemingly innocent get-togethers” indoors with family and friends.

As many as 50 million people are expected to travel by various means this week to celebrate Thanksgiving, potentially producing a new surge in infections that will manifest a couple of weeks later and threaten the Christmas holidays, too, Fauci warned.

Maryland’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, said “we are pretty worried” about Americans planning to defy advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and travel for Thanksgiving and gather in unsafe circumstances.

“Family gathering is the number one transmission event,” he said, warning that people let their guard down at such events, failing to wear masks properly and breaking social distancing rules.

The US has recorded a million new cases of coronavirus a week for the past two weeks and now has 12.1m cases and a death toll of 256,000, the highest numbers in the world, as tracked by the Johns Hopkins coronavirus research center.

Fauci added that he understood the public was weary of restrictions, staying away from others and holding back on travel but he reiterated that mitigation measures such as mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing are effective.

And limiting people in restaurants and avoiding or closing bars “can blunt the curve”, he said.

As Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser of the government’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine development and distribution program, said on Sunday that if the first coronavirus vaccine is approved for use next month, the first Americans outside of clinical trials will be vaccinated by December 11 or 12.

And if 70% of the US population can be vaccinated by May then that was approximately when American could return to normal and put the pandemic behind it.

Fauci urged Americans not to travel and gather and to make sure they took the right measures, saying: “If you can hang in there, we can get out of this.”

With successful vaccines in the wings, he said: “Help is on the way, so you should not look at this as a hopeless situation.”

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