Though omicron variant may be less severe, sheer numbers of patients could swamp hospitals
Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Sunday that Americans should not get complacent over the omicron variant of COVID-19, even though it may cause less severe reactions, and predicted a massive surge in new cases in the coming weeks.
Omicron is “extraordinarily contagious,” the nation’s top infectious disease expert told ABC News’ “This Week”: “Every day it goes up and up. The last weekly average was about 150,000 and it likely will go much higher.”
Noting that new data suggests omicron results in less severe reactions and less likelihood of hospitalizations, Fauci said the sheer numbers could still cause hospitals to be swamped: “If you have many, many, many more people with a less level of severity, that might kind of neutralize the positive effect of having less severity when you have so many more people.”
He added that unvaccinated people remain the most at risk. “Those are the most vulnerable ones when you have a virus that is extraordinarily effective in getting to people and infecting them the way omicron is,” he said.”
Fauci also expressed frustration at the slow pace of COVID-19 testing around the country, saying the U.S. has “got to do better.”
“I mean, I think things will improve greatly as we get into January, but that doesn’t help us today and tomorrow … that is something that is of concern,” he said.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, only 62% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. To date, more than 52.2 million Americans have contracted the virus, and about 816,000 Americans have died, according to Hopkins data.