As Americans head into the holiday season, the country's top infectious disease expert is sounding the alarm about bolstering protection against COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases.
Gathering for the holidays can be "a perfect setup to get an uptick in respiratory diseases," Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, told Spectrum News on Wednesday. "And we have a trifecta of respiratory diseases that we're dealing with now."
Despite the fact that the U.S. is in a "much better" place against COVID-19 than last year, Dr. Fauci said, "we still are challenged by 350 or more deaths per day" related to the disease.
In addition to COVID-19, there are other respiratory viruses circulating nationwide – namely influenza and RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus. A surge in RSV cases has already overwhelmed some pediatric hospitals.
Health officials have expressed concerns about a "tridemic" between the three respiratory diseases – or, as Dr. Fauci put it, a "confluence of respiratory infections" – specifically when it comes to vulnerable groups like children and the elderly.
"We have a flu season that has started early," Dr. Fauci said Wednesday. "We have a lot of flu circulating. And then we also have the [RSV], which is particularly problematic for children, particularly those five years old and younger, as well as the elderly."
There is hope, however, Dr. Fauci said, thanks to "two good vaccines" for influenza and COVID-19, telling Americans: "If you haven't gotten your updated booster shot ... you should do it."
Because people come together during the winter holidays, Dr. Fauci recommended taking safety precautions before Americans visit their family and friends.
"One of the things you could easily do is test the day of the dinner, so that you'll know that you are negative for the virus," Fauci told Spectrum News.
In addition to vaccination and testing, the CDC also recommends washing your hands and wearing a mask – and offers tips like hydrating, staying active, eating healthy and getting plenty of rest to bolster defenses from chronic disease.
The Biden administration on Tuesday asked Congress for $10 billion to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in its request for the next fiscal year. The White House asked Congress for additional COVID-related funding earlier this year, but Congres never addressed the request.
Fauci said the money will be put to good use and will help with "public service announcements and outreach to the community to get people to be vaccinated."
"That's one of the reasons why we need the supplemental funding" Dr. Fauci said, adding: "The money is needed. We're not asking for something that we don't need."