Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that experts need more research before drawing conclusions on the severity of omicron.
According to reports from South Africa, where it emerged and is now the dominant strain, hospitalization rates have not risen drastically.
“From what I’ve seen so far, it doesn’t appear to be very serious,” Fauci added. “However, we must proceed with caution before concluding that it is less severe or that it does not induce any severe disease akin to delta.”
According to Fauci, the Biden administration is considering relaxing travel restrictions for noncitizens entering the United States from a number of African countries. They were implemented as the omicron form exploded in the region, but United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called them “travel apartheid.”
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to lift that ban within a fair time frame,” Fauci added. “We are all very saddened by the burden that has been imposed not only on South Africa, but also on the other African countries.”
By Sunday, Omicron had been found throughout around one-third of the United States, encompassing the Northeast, South, Great Plains, and West Coast. Cases have been confirmed in Wisconsin, Missouri, and Louisiana, among other states.
However, delta remains the most common form, accounting for more than 99 percent of infections and fueling a surge in hospitalizations in the north. National Guard troops have been dispatched to assist overburdened hospitals in western New York, while Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has issued an emergency order mandating any hospitals experiencing limited patient capacity to minimize non-urgent scheduled procedures.
Officials in the United States have continued to urge people to get vaccinated and receive booster shots, as well as take precautions such as wearing masks when in the presence of strangers indoors, claiming that anything that helps protect against delta will also help protect against other variants.
Even if omicron is less harmful than delta, World Health Organization epidemiologist Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove told CBS’ “Face The Nation” that it is still an issue.
“Even if we have a huge number of mild cases, some of those people will need to be hospitalized,” she said. “They will need to be admitted to ICU, and some individuals will die.” We don’t want that to exacerbate an already terrible situation with delta circulating globally.”
COVID-19 has killed nearly 780,000 Americans two years into the outbreak, with an average of 860 deaths each day.
According to tracking statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 6,600 new hospital admissions are reported every day.
The number of cases and deaths in the United States has declined by almost half since the recent peak in August and September, but at more than 86,000 new infections each day, the numbers remain high, particularly as the holidays approach and people travel and congregate with family.