As the Omicron variant spreads like wildfire across the United States, it’s likely just about everybody will be exposed to the strain, but vaccinated people will still fare better, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert said Tuesday.
“Omicron, with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility, will ultimately find just about everybody,” Dr Anthony Fauci told J. Stephen Morrison, senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Those who have been vaccinated … and boosted would get exposed. Some, maybe a lot of them, will get infected but will very likely, with some exceptions, do reasonably well in the sense of not having hospitalization and death.”
In contrast, those who are not vaccinated are “going to get the brunt of the severe aspect of this,” he added.
Omicron devastates services, schools, travel as workers are sick or in quarantine
Across the United States, at least one in five eligible Americans – roughly 65 million people – are not vaccinated against COVID-19. More than 62 per cent of the country has been fully vaccinated, but only 23 per cent are fully vaccinated and boosted, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fauci’s comments came in response to a question about whether the pandemic has entered a new phase. That will come when there’s enough protection in the community and drugs to easily treat severe COVID-19, he said, adding, “We may be on the threshold of that right now.”
Also Tuesday, US Food and Drug Administration acting commissioner Dr Janet Woodcock said that while most people could catch the virus, the focus now should be on making sure hospitals and essential services function.
Woodcock was responding to a question from Sen. Mike Braun about whether it’s time for the United States to change its COVID-19 strategy. Her statement was not a new assessment of COVID-19, but rather an attempt to make clear the need to prioritize essential services as the Omicron variant surges.
“I think it’s hard to process what’s actually happening right now, which is: Most people are going to get COVID,” Woodcock said at a Senate Health, Education, Labour and Pensions Committee hearing. “And what we need to do is make sure the hospitals can still function, transportation, you know, other essential services are not disrupted while this happens.”
On Tuesday, the number of US patients hospitalized with COVID-19 hit a record high, adding strain to health care networks and pushing states toward emergency staffing and other measures as they struggle to cope.
More than 145,900 people were in US hospitals with COVID-19 as of Tuesday — a number that surpasses the previous peak from mid-January 2021 (142,246), and is almost twice what it was two weeks ago, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.
The hospitalization record comes amid a surge in cases fuelled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
The United States averaged more than 754,200 new COVID-19 cases daily over the past week, according to Johns Hopkins University data. That’s about three times last winter’s peak average (251,987 on January 11, 2021), and 4.5 times the peak from the Delta-driven surge (166,347 on September 1), according to JHU.
The country has averaged 1,646 COVID-19 deaths a day over the past week – 33 per cent higher than a week ago, according to JHU. The peak average was 3,402 daily on January 13, 2021, JHU data shows.
The Omicron variant caused 98.3 per cent of new coronavirus cases in the United States last week, according to estimates posted Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (CNN)
This article appears in the January 14 edition of COVID Dispatch. Read the full publication here.