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Expand chart
Data: N.Y. Times; Cartogram: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Coronavirus cases are rising, nationally and in most states — an ominous trend heading into the week of Thanksgiving.

The big picture: Two-thirds of Americans plan to have Thanksgiving gatherings that resemble their pre-pandemic festivities, according to recent Monmouth University polling. But as cases rise, travel and indoor celebrations will put the millions of unvaccinated Americans at risk.

The intrigue: Holiday gatherings and wintertime have been on the Biden administration's mind for months, and factored into the White House's initial plan to make boosters widely available in September, one senior Biden administration official said.

  • "We knew we wanted to be ahead of this. Why do you think we were pushing?" the official said.
  • But the FDA and the CDC initially authorized boosters only for smaller, high-risk groups, arguing there wasn't enough data to support broader eligibility. They're expected to begin opening the shots up to all adults as early as today, but only so many people can get their shots in less than a week.

Where it stands: Only 59% of Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

  • Just 37% of adults 65 and older have gotten a booster dose, leaving millions of older Americans vulnerable to more severe breakthrough infections.
  • 10% of children ages 5 to 11 have received a dose — an impressive number, given that the vaccines were only authorized for this age group this month, yet still a small percentage.
  • Rapid tests can be a useful tool ahead of travel and gatherings, but they're often in short supply and hard to find.

By the numbers: Cases rose by 20% over the last two weeks, and increases were particularly sharp in some parts of the Upper Midwest and New England.

  • Daily deaths, on the other hand, dropped by 13%. But the virus is still killing more than 1,000 Americans per day, on average.

What they're saying: "As we head into the holiday and winter season, now is the time to think about protection for ourselves and our families," CDC director Rochelle Walensky said yesterday.

  • "For those who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and who are eligible for a COVID-19 booster dose, go out now and get your extra booster dose to protect you," she added. "And for those who are not yet vaccinated...getting vaccinated this week will set you up to being fully protected in time for the holidays and by the end of the year."

What we're watching: The level of risk posed by the holidays depends on whether you're vaccinated, and also varies by region. Although infections among vaccinated people are becoming relatively common, very few result in hospitalization and death.

The bottom line: "This virus is doing what this virus does," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. "We don’t understand why surges start, we don't understand why they end."

Go deeper

Nov 27, 2021 - World

South Africa says it's being "punished" for detecting new COVID variant

South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor addresses the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly on September 22, 2021 in New York City. Photo: Eduardo Munoz - Pool/Getty Images)

South Africa said Saturday it's being "punished" for detecting the new Omicron coronavirus variant as more countries rush to enact travel bans and restrictions.

Driving the news: The U.S. imposed air travel restrictions from eight countries Friday in response to the Omicron variant. Countries in Europe and Asia have also implemented their own travel restrictions in response to Omicron.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Nov 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Why more Americans are going childless

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A Pew survey late last week found that 44% of Americans between 18 and 49 who aren't parents say it is not too likely or not at all likely that they will have children — an increase of 7 percentage points from 2018.

Why it matters: The shift could lead to smaller family Thanksgiving dinners and major social and economic changes, as children become rarer in many parts of the country and more American adults reach old age with little to no family to support them.

6 hours ago - Health

Fauci: Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned on Sunday that the COVID-19 Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in the United States.

Driving the news: Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" that U.S. officials will meet with colleagues from South Africa later on Sunday to try to determine the severity of the cases, as countries scramble to learn more about the variant.

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