A Manhattan federal judge said Tuesday that it was “absolutely critical” to move forward with the planned wire fraud and identity theft trial of Michael Avenatti in January, even as a surge of COVID-19 cases continued to loom large over the proceedings.

U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman of the Southern District of New York said during a remote conference that he was sticking with his plans to hold the trial beginning Jan. 24, but cautioned that he would revisit the decision “in the event there is reason to do so.”