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You Can Catch COVID Here By Surprise, Fauci Warns

"We don't need to accept" predicted casualties, he says. Just change this behavior.
Dr. Anthony Fauci talking to Norah O'Donnell via Zoom video.

To stem the surge of COVID-19, Americans should keep their holiday gatherings to people living within their immediate household, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, on Monday. He gave the advice in response to CBS' Norah O'Donnell, who asked about predictive models that estimate 3,000 Americans a day may die of coronavirus in the weeks after Christmas.

"Models are as good as the assumptions you put into the model," said Fauci. "So they're making the assumption that what we're going to see is people congregating in social settings in the home." He added: "We don't need to accept that. We can change the assumptions that are put into the model." Read on to hear his warning, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus

"You have no idea" if you'll be infected this way, Fauci warns

For example: "Although it is painful, inconvenient and sad," said Fauci, Americans can prevent disease spread by keeping their holiday gatherings to people within their own household. 

"And if you have other people come in, be very careful," he said. Ideally, a guest will have had a recent negative COVID-19 test, or they have been isolating in a "bubble" of their own, "where they're very, very careful in protecting themselves, so that when you get together it's much less of a risk." 

An undesirable situation would be "someone who just gets in from an airport or a train station, gets in an Uber, comes to your house," he said. "You have no idea who they were exposed to. Those are the things you avoid."

Fauci plans to practice what he's preaching: For the first time in 30 years, he said, his daughters—who live in far-flung areas of the country—will not be with him on Christmas.

Although more is known about COVID-19 since the initial infection wave this spring and the death rate has dropped, health officials worry that a surge in cases this winter could overwhelm hospitals and lead to an increase in fatalities—both from COVID and other conditions.

RELATED: This is the #1 Way You'll Get COVID, According to Doctors

"Double down" to protect yourself

There are "tough times ahead of us," said Fauci, "but we need to address them by doubling down with public health measures," including wearing masks, avoiding crowds and congregate settings, and practicing social distancing. 

"If we can do that together, pulling together as we get the vaccine rolled out, we should be OK," he added. "But it's not going to happen spontaneously. We're going to have to make the effort to do that."

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.