COVID cases likely to ‘go much higher’ as health officials battle ‘rapid spread’ of omicron, Fauci says
As federal, state and local health officials grapple with the “rapid spread” of the “extraordinary” omicron variant, the U.S. is headed for a continued surge of COVID-19 cases this winter, Dr. Anthony Fauci says.
“Given the sheer volume of cases that you see now, every day it goes up and up,” Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, told ABC News’ “This Week” on Sunday morning. “The last weekly average was about 150,000, and it will likely go much higher.”
State and federal officials have ramped up efforts to distribute more COVID-19 tests, get more people vaccinated and boosted, and expand capacity at health care facilities and testing sites. Cases have steadily increased in Massachusetts, New England and throughout the U.S. for several weeks, but vaccinations and boosters have kept severe cases, hospitalizations and deaths down compared to last year. Health officials still expect omicron and holiday travel to bring a significant surge this winter; Massachusetts on Friday reported more than 10,000 new cases in a single day for the first time over the two-year pandemic.
The Biden administration recently announced plans to deploy 1,000 military medical personnel to support hospital staffing as cases spike. The administration also plans to buy 500 million rapid at-home COVID-19 tests that Americans can order for free by January.
Fauci said the steps are geared to “make sure, given the rapid spread of this extraordinary variant, that we don’t get an overrun on hospitals, particularly in regions in which you have a larger portion of unvaccinated individuals.”
He added that the administration will also bolster nationwide inventory of personal protective equipment and ventilators.
Fauci cited studies suggesting omicron cases are less severe than other strains, but he emphasized that the high volume of new infections “might override a real diminution in severity” if Americans “get complacent.”
“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,” Fauci said. “And we’re particularly worried about those who are in that unvaccinated class ... those are the most vulnerable ones when you have a virus that is extraordinarily effective in getting to people.”
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