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Small gatherings causing new COVID-19 infections, CDC director warns

Small gatherings are increasingly becoming a source of COVID-19 infection around the country, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield warned governors on a call last week.

Redfield's comments, according to audio obtained by CNN, come as dozens of states see increases in new COVID-19 cases. “In the public square, we’re seeing a higher degree of vigilance and mitigation steps in many jurisdictions,” Redfield said. “But what we’re seeing as the increasing threat right now is actually acquisition of infection through small household gatherings.”

With Halloween, Thanksgiving and other holidays coming up, these gatherings could become a major concern. “We think it’s really important to stress the vigilance of these continued mitigation steps in the household setting,” Redfield said.

During the past week, Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, has given similar warnings about holiday gatherings. “It’s important for all of us to not let our guard down during Thanksgiving,” she said during a media briefing Friday. “We see that from the High Holy Days, people are just yearning to be together.”

She encouraged families to adapt their holidays plans and protect their vulnerable family members by wearing face masks and following social distancing guidelines, according to CBS Boston.

“This virus can spread among families and among friends if you take your mask off and are primarily indoors,” she said. “When in private, we [need to take] the same precautions that we take in public.”

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, has warned the U.S. needs to get its numbers way down before winter. The colder weather and more indoor activities provide more avenues for the virus to spread. Respiratory viruses like the flu also spread easier in colder months, and experts expect COVID-19 to behave the same way.

After a dip in September, new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are once again soaring upwards. There were 54,512 new infections on Oct. 13, The New York Times reported, marking one of the highest daily case totals since August.

More than half of the country is seeing rising rates of infection, with 27 states trending upwards. And 20 states — Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Utah and Virginia — all recorded their highest number of new daily cases in the last week.

Sources: The CDC, CNN, CNBC, The New York Times, CBS Boston

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