Infectious disease expert and White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that “just about everybody” will eventually be infected with the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
“Omicron, with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility, will, ultimately, find just about everybody,” Fauci told the Center for Strategic and International Studies during a “fireside chat.”
“Those who have been vaccinated and 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,” he added.
The omicron variant was discovered in November and has since caused a surge in cases around the world, prompting some countries, states and cities to put restrictions back in place.
Omicron is the most transmissible variant to appear so far, but seems to cause fewer hospitalizations and deaths than previous mutations of the virus.
Fauci’s comment follows a similar remark Janet Woodcock, acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, made at a Senate hearing Tuesday, when she said “it’s hard to process what’s actually happening right now, which is most people are going to get COVID.”
Fauci defended Woodcock’s remarks in a COVID-19 briefing Wednesday saying Woodcock did not mean to imply “most of us were ultimately going to get sick with omicron.”
“Remember, she was talking about the data that we all showed about the extraordinary effect and dichotomy between people who get Omicron who get vaccinated and boosted how well they are protected against hospitalization, and death,” Fauci said.
“What she was referring to is that virtually everybody is going to wind up getting exposed and likely get infected but if you’re vaccinated and if you’re boosting, the chances of getting sick have very, very low,” he added.
Although individuals who are vaccinated or have been previously infected with COVID-19 can contract omicron, hospitalizations and deaths are significantly higher among those who are unvaccinated.
Hospitals around the country are becoming overwhelmed with cases as some states, including New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia, have declared emergencies to deal with the surge caused by omicron.
Anti-viral tablets ‘kept me out of hospital’
A patient taking part in trials for Covid antiviral drugs says she started feeling better within 24 hours of taking the tablets. Amy-Claire Davies, of Swansea, said Molnupiravir pills were delivered to her door within an hour of speaking to the prescription service. “If I hadn’t taken them I would have ended up being hospitalised,” Ms Davies said. The tablets were prescribed as part of a trial led by Oxford University.
US: Walensky- Mask guidance not changing
© Shawn Thew/Pool via AP
Rochelle Walensky, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Wednesday the agency does not plan to change its mask guidance to advise Americans to wear higher-quality masks amid the omicron surge.
The CDC director said during a White House briefing that her agency currently recommends that “any mask is better than no mask” to battle the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The guidance does not advise Americans to wear a specific kind of mask, such as a medical-grade KN95 or N95 instead of a cloth mask, although Walensky said the CDC plans to update its website to help Americans choose their face covering.
“We do encourage all Americans to wear a well-fitting mask to protect themselves and prevent the spread of COVID 19,” she said. “And the recommendation is not going to change.”
Walensky acknowledged that the CDC’s website is “in need of updating right now” to include information on the “different levels of protection different masks provide,” including the improved filtration of KN95 and N95 masks.
Boosting availability? There could still be other efforts on masks. At the same briefing, White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said the White House is “strongly considering options” to improve accessibility to high-quality masks for all Americans.
STUDY: OMICRON PATIENTS AT ‘SUBSTANTIALLY REDUCED RISK’
A preprint study released Tuesday estimated that patients infected with the omicron variant were at “substantially reduced risk” of severe outcomes than delta patients, aligning with earlier research suggesting omicron cases may cause less severe disease.
The study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, used modeling to determine that the omicron strain was about half as likely to send patients to California hospitals than the delta variant. Patients hospitalized with the omicron strain were also more likely to have shorter hospital stays than delta patients.
The study involved more than 52,000 omicron patients and almost 17,000 delta patients within the Kaiser Permanente Southern California health care system between Nov. 30 and Jan. 1, when both variants were spreading.
What Walensky said: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky called the study’s results “consistent with what we are seeing from omicron in other countries, including South Africa and the U.K.”
Still, Walensky warned that the high transmissibility of omicron has caused an exponential increase in COVID-19 cases, which regardless of its severity is putting pressure on hospitals.
“The sudden and steep rise in cases due to omicron is resulting in unprecedented daily case counts, sickness, absenteeism and strains on our health care system,” she continued.