The US government’s top adviser on the pandemic, Anthony Fauci, said Sunday that while the omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly across the United States, early indications suggest that could be less dangerous than delta, which continues to drive a rebound in hospitalizations.
Fauci declared on CNN’s “State of the Union” program that scientists need more information before reaching conclusions about the gravity of omicron.
Reports from South Africa, where it emerged and is becoming the dominant variant, show that hospitalization rates have not increased at an alarming rate.
“So far, it doesn’t seem to have a very high degree of severity,” Fauci said. “But we have to really be careful before making any determination that it is less serious, or does not actually cause serious disease, compared to delta. “
The omicron variant had been detected in about a third of US states as of Sunday, including the Northeast, the South, the Great Plains and the West Coast. Wisconsin and Missouri have been among the last entities to confirm cases.
However, the delta remains the dominant variant, representing more than 99% of cases and promoting an increase in hospitalizations in the north of the country. National Guard teams have been dispatched to help overwhelmed hospitals in western New York, and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker issued an emergency order requiring any hospital facing limited capacity to serve patients to reduce the scheduled procedures that are not urgent.
The US authorities continued to ask people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and receive the booster dose, and to also take measures such as wearing masks when with strangers indoors, noting that everything that serves to protect against the variant delta also works against other variants.
Even if omicron turns out to be less dangerous than delta, it’s still problematic, said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist with the World Health Organization, on CBS’s “Face The Nation.”
“Even if we have a large number of cases that are moderate, some of those individuals will require hospitalization,” he noted. “They will need to enter intensive care and some people will die … We do not want to see that happen, coupled with an already difficult situation in which delta is circulating globally.”
Two years after the outbreak, COVID-19 has killed more than 780,000 Americans, and there are currently about 860 daily deaths from the disease.