Dr. Anthony Fauci has shared his plans for Christmas, telling Americans that he’s spending the holiday with just his wife—and encouraging everyone to have small gatherings for the day in order to prevent further transmission of COVID-19.

In an interview with The Washington Post, the infectious disease specialist said that he and his wife, Christine Grady, aren’t seeing their three adult daughters—Megan, Alison, and Jennifer—on Christmas for the first time ever.

“I'm going to be with my wife—period,” the 79-year-old immunologist said. “The Christmas holiday is a special holiday for us because Christmas Eve is my birthday. And Christmas Day is Christmas Day. And they are not going to come home … That's painful. We don't like that. But that's just one of the things you're going to have to accept as we go through this unprecedented challenging time.”

As the U.S. continues to experience a surge in cases and hospitalizations, Fauci urged Americans to help stop the spread of the virus by adhering to all the health guidelines. “Stay at home as much as you can, keep your interactions to the extent possible to members of the same household,” he said. “This cannot be business as usual this Christmas because we're already in a very difficult situation, and we're going to make it worse, if we don't do something about it.”

Fauci said that the pandemic is an “unusual situation,” because of the second wave coinciding with the release of the vaccine, adding that the pandemic won’t “last forever.”

“It is highly likely that with vaccines being distributed, that we will be back to normal by next Christmas,” he added. “So make the choice and keep yourself and your family healthy so that you'll have many more Christmases ahead of you.”

The first vaccines were distributed in America on Monday, after Pfizer’s treatment was approved for emergency use by the FDA last Friday. In late November, before the vaccine was authorized, Fauci said that most Americans will be able to get vaccinated by next April or May if they wish to do so.

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