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Dr. Fauci warns against Super Bowl gatherings: 'Now is not the time'

Fauci urged Americans to limit their Super Bowl gatherings to immediate family and those living in their households to prevent a COVID-19 superspreader event.
/ Source: TODAY

As far as Dr. Anthony Fauci is concerned, Super Bowl Sunday is as worrisome as any holiday like Christmas or Thanksgiving when it comes to the potential spread of the coronavirus.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases warned against having the typical large Super Bowl parties that accompany the big game when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs face off in Super Bowl 55 on Sunday.

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"Every time we do have something like this, there always is a spike, be it a holiday, Christmas, New Year's, Thanksgiving," Fauci told Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Wednesday. "As you mentioned, Super Bowl is a big deal in the United States.

"Enjoy the game, watch it on television, but do it with the immediate members of your family, the people in your household. As much fun as it is to get together in a big Super Bowl party, now is not the time to do that. Watch the game and enjoy it, but do it with your family or with people that are in your household."

As the mass vaccination effort continues across the country, Fauci noted that there may soon be another vaccine joining the list of approved treatments. One made by Johnson & Johnson, which requires only one shot instead of two like the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, is currently being reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration and could receive approval by the end of the month.

"The J&J data right now that we discussed last week is being reviewed with the FDA right now, so we could see literally within a week or so that they wind up getting the kind of emergency use authorization," Fauci said. "I don't want to get ahead of the FDA, but I would not be surprised if this happens within the next week or two."

Fauci also addressed the chances that the mutant strains of the virus like the South African and U.K. variants could become the dominant strains in the United States and complicate the vaccine effort.

"That's certainly a possibility and that's the reason why we take it very seriously," he said. "The way you do that is to suppress the replication of the virus, and the best way to do that is twofold.

"One, continue to double down on the public health measures to prevent spread from person to person, and get as many people vaccinated as you possibly can. The more people that are protected for infection, the less opportunity you give the virus to mutate. It can't mutate if it doesn't replicate, so the more you suppress it, the less it does."

There also is the question of which side is winning the race between the spread of the mutant strains and the amount of Americans being vaccinated.

"We're getting better and better, but we're not (winning) because the situation is, we still have a demand that far exceeds the supply," Fauci said. "We got to get the steady supply of vaccine so that we can put it in people's arms."

There also is the potential that the vaccines could have to be upgraded to better protect against the mutant strains if they become dominant, which is a process Fauci said could be done in a few months.

"You could probably do something like that in two or three months because the vaccines themselves are very flexible and adaptable to be able to upgrade them," he said.

"If they do become dominant, we may need to upgrade the vaccine. That's exactly the direction we're going right now."

Finally, he fielded one last pressing question. Who does he think is going to win the big game on Sunday?

"I don't want to go there, Savannah," he said before laughing.