Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that the next few weeks will see severe stress on hospital systems as the omicron variant is “raging around the world.”
Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, said there is no doubt on omicron’s “extraordinary capability” for transmission on Sunday’s “Meet the Press.” Although the latest coronavirus mutation appears to have less severe symptoms in vaccinated people, Fauci warned that its transmissibility counteracts the mildness of the cases.
“Because our hospitals, if things look like they’re looking now, in the next week or two are going to be very stressed with people because again, we have so many people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not yet been vaccinated,” Fauci said.
It’s already clear that the new variant is “raging through the world,” he said. Omicron was first detected last month by researchers in South Africa.
The hospitalization to case ratio appears to be smaller than with the prior coronavirus variant of concern, delta, according to Fauci, who cited early data out of South Africa. But he was also cautious about that information, saying the region has much more experience with prior infections.
Fauci urged people to be vaccinated, boosted, tested, and to wear masks in an effort to mitigate spread as the holidays approach.
“We are going to see breakthrough infections, there’s no doubt about that,” Fauci said. “The difference between a vaccinated and boosted person who has an infection and someone who has an infection who’s never been vaccinated, there’s a major difference with regard to the risk of severity.”
President Joe Biden is expected to address the nation Tuesday, unveiling new steps his administration is taking to combat the omicron variant.
Fauci referred briefly to Biden’s winter plan, saying the administration was planning on upscaling existing efforts in testing and vaccination as omicron continues to spread.