Dr. Fauci, however, will not be seeing his three adult daughters this Thanksgiving.
Dr. Michael Mina, an epidemiologist and immunologist at Harvard, said that at this point in the pandemic people couldn’t be expected to eliminate coronavirus risk entirely. He compared it to the risk of a car accident. To avoid all risk, people wouldn’t get in a car at all. Seatbelts, airbags and adherence to traffic laws all cut down on risk, but they don’t mean someone is completely safe — and people don’t forgo using a seatbelt just because the car has airbags. Coronavirus precautions like testing, distancing and masking work in the same way, he said.
How to decrease risk and still gather
Before gathering with others, Dr. Mina said, people could combine a negative test with a two-week quarantine if they’re able, and have a frank conversation with older family members about the risk and whether they’re willing to attend. At a gathering, he said, risk mitigation strategies might include keeping dinner short, hosting the event outdoors, wearing a mask when not eating and giving air hugs instead of touching.
Avoiding any contact with other people for a week or more before taking a test is a powerful tool, said Jeffrey Townsend, a professor of biostatistics at the Yale School of Public Health. Not only does it decrease exposure, but it also gives the virus more opportunity to reach detectable levels in infected people, his research has found.
“You can do more quarantine, and it is quite helpful,” he said. “But the test on exit really helps, and it really drops your chance.”
Professor Townsend will be celebrating this Thanksgiving at home with his wife and children. Even though he studies testing protocols, he has never taken a coronavirus test himself, because he has stayed at home throughout the pandemic except for urgent needs.