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Appearing on another Sunday talk show, Dr Anthony Fauci, a prominent member of the task force and Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, too expressed serious concerns over the sudden jump in COVID-19 cases in the U.S. in the coming days and weeks.
"We have to be careful now because there is nearly certainly going to be an uptick because of what has happened with the travel", Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, told ABC's This Week on Sunday.
"We are going to have to make decisions as a nation, state, city and family that we are in a very hard time, and we're going to have to do the kinds of restrictions of things we would have liked to have done, particularly in this holiday season", he said. "We're entering this post-Thanksgiving surge with three, four and 10 times as much disease across the country", Birx said during the interview.
This was an ominous trend, Fauci added, with the Christmas holidays and more year-end travel looming, he said.
The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in the United States topped 200,000 for the first time on Friday. The highest previous daily count was 196,000 on November 20, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. To date, more than 13.2 million COVID-19 infections have been confirmed in the United States, with at least 266,000 deaths. "The part at the distal end, namely, getting it into people's arms, is going to be more challenging than a regular flu season, it would be foolish to deny that".More news: Indonesia volcano: Huge eruption causes thousands to flee poisonous lava streams
Dr Fauci said the arrival of vaccines offers a "light at the end of the tunnel".
A week before Thanksgiving, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a recommendation against gathering for the holidays this year.
Responding to a question, Birx said that she hopes to brief president-elect Joe Biden on Monday.
"We know people may have made mistakes over the Thanksgiving time period", she added.
The health officials' comments came as USA news media reported that the first shipments of Pfizer and BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine - one of the first to claim high effectiveness, along with a Moderna product - had arrived in the U.S. from a Pfizer lab in Belgium.
"We likely, nearly certainly, are going to be vaccinating a portion of the individuals in the first priority before the end of December, and then as we get into January and February and March, more and more", he said.More news: Not the happiest place: Disney to lay off 32,000 workers in 2021
While he explicitly said he was not calling for a national lockdown, Fauci said at the local level, Americans could "blunt" the surge's effects on the hospital system by taking mitigation steps "short of locking down so we don't precipitate the necessity of locking down".
The Hill reported that the day before Thanksgiving, travel rates reached the highest they have been since March, with almost 1.1 million passengers passing through airport security.
However, on Sunday, the mayor of New York City abruptly changed policy and announced that public elementary schools would reopen.
De Blasio said that many of those returning in person will be able to attend five days of class a week, up from one to three days previously. Previously, the city set a target of testing 20% of teachers and students in each school building once a month.
NY exceeded that threshold early in November, and infections have slightly worsened since then.More news: Grosjean Escapes Serious Injury In Brutal Bahrain Crash