Passengers exit Hartsfield – Jackson Atlanta International Airport ahead of Thanksgiving Day during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Atlanta, Georgia, November 23, 2020.
Chris Aluka Berry | Reuters
Just before Christmas, the US hasn't seen the worst of the coronavirus outbreaks caused by people traveling and gathering for Thanksgiving, said White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, on Tuesday.
"That should probably be next week or a week and a half," Fauci told the Wall Street Journal CEO Council summit when the United States could expect "the full load" of the virus that comes out of the Thanksgiving holiday season.
"And then we will enter the Christmas season, again with more travel and more gatherings at family and social gatherings. So we are facing a very challenging time," said Fauci.
According to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the US currently reports 201,154 Covid-19 cases daily, based on a weekly average. That number is more than 25% more than a week ago.
The country's hospitals are also reporting a record number of patients – 102,148 people – with Covid-19. This is a sign that the outbreak is becoming more serious, according to the COVID Tracking Project, which is being carried out by journalists in the Atlantic.
Fauci previously warned the US could see a "spike on spike" in Covid-19 cases after Thanksgiving and Christmas. The month of December could be a time of "precarious risk" as some people start buying Christmas gifts from stores and throwing ill-advised parties for New Years Eve, he said last week.
Covid-19 cases were already on the rise before Thanksgiving, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned against going on vacation. Despite these warnings, more than 3 million people traveled through the country's airports. This has been the busiest weekend touring since the lock orders were issued in mid-March. The CDC is now advising that people avoid traveling and congregating during the winter vacation.
The worsening outbreak has led some state and city leaders to put more restrictions in place to keep their intensive care units from overcrowding.
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom announced last week that the state would impose a stay at home order on the regions if the available intensive care capacity of their hospitals falls below 15%. Last week, Fauci said parts of the country could see more temporary restrictions like the one in California.
On Tuesday, Fauci said he would advocate a more unified national approach to public health to prevent outbreaks when he meets with President-elect Joe Biden's team. These methods include the widespread use of face masks, social distancing, frequent hand washing, and avoiding gatherings, especially indoors, he said.
However, the US has not consistently followed these measures, which is "extremely frustrating," said Fauci, who will join Biden's team as an advisor after the president-elect is sworn in.
"The problem is you travel to different parts of the country and even when the outbreak is clear and the hospitals are on the verge of overflowing, there is a significant segment of people who still think that this is not real. That it is it is false news or that it is a joke, "said Fauci on Tuesday.
"It's extraordinary," he said. "I've never seen anything like it."
– CNBC's Will Feuer and Nate Rattner contributed to this report.