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Q&A: CDC sent out confusing holiday message

The agency pulled its recently-posted recommendations.
A COVID-19 particle is pictured in this image provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A COVID-19 particle is pictured in this image provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [ CDC | TNS ]
Published Oct. 5

Over the weekend, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted a page on its website with guidance on how to celebrate the fall and winter holidays safely. It encouraged virtual celebrations and outdoor gatherings to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

By Monday, the CDC removed the information from its website, saying that updated guidelines are coming “soon.”

So where does that leave holiday gatherings? Here are some answers.

What did the previous guidelines say?

Friday’s guidance: “The safest way to celebrate is virtually, with people who live with you, or outside and at least 6 feet apart from others.”

Why were the guidelines pulled?

The CDC blamed a computer glitch and said holiday guidelines are still being worked on. It did not say when those guidelines would be released, though it does have current guidelines on gatherings. The agency continues to recommend avoiding large events and gatherings, and recommends wearing a mask when indoors, even for the vaccinated.

Related: Doctors grow frustrated over COVID-19 denial, misinformation

“The content is in the process of being updated by CDC to reflect current guidance ahead of this holiday season,” CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said in a statement. “The page had a technical update on Friday, but doesn’t reflect the CDC’s guidance ahead of this upcoming holiday season.”

Top health officials are emphasizing the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations in ensuring safe holiday gatherings, especially as doctors anticipate vaccine approvals for younger children.
Top health officials are emphasizing the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations in ensuring safe holiday gatherings, especially as doctors anticipate vaccine approvals for younger children. [ ULYSSES MUNOZ | The Baltimore Sun ]

What caused the confusion?

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on a Sunday news show that it was too soon to tell whether people should avoid gathering for Christmas. After he was criticized for that comment, Fauci told CNN on Monday that his comments were “misinterpreted.”

“That was misinterpreted as my saying we can’t spend Christmas with our families, which was absolutely not the case,” he said. “I will be spending Christmas with my family, I encourage people, particularly the vaccinated people who are protected, to have a good, normal Christmas with your family.”

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation last week that she thinks children should be able to go trick-or-treating this year if they are outside and in small groups.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation last week that she thinks children should be able to go trick-or-treating this year if they are outside and in small groups. [ CHIP SOMODEVILLA | Getty Images North America ]

What about Halloween?

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation last week that she thinks children should be able to go trick-or-treating this year if they are outside and in small groups. “I wouldn’t necessarily go to a crowded Halloween party,” she said.

Is there hope the holidays will be more normal?

According to CDC data, the number of new COVID-19 cases fell 36 percent from Sept. 1 to Oct. 1.

Top health officials are emphasizing the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations in ensuring safe holiday gatherings, especially as doctors anticipate vaccine approvals for younger children.

The latest data shows 56.4 percent of the nation is fully vaccinated. In Florida, the number is 57.7 percent. But health officials are worried that vaccinations have recently taken a nose-dive as the delta variant has waned.