Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks at a daily press briefing at the White House in Washington on January 21, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday that a growing body of data indicates that the Covid omicron variant is less serious than the delta strain, but warned hospitals could still face stress from an unprecedented number of new infections. covering the United States.
“Multiple sources, currently preliminary data, indicate a decrease in severity with omicron use,” Fauci told the public during a Covid update from the White House response team. “However, we really need a more accurate assessment of severity with long-term follow-up here and in different countries.”
Fauci cited a study from Ontario, Canada that found the risk of hospitalization or death was 65% lower among people infected with omicron compared to people who contracted delta. The risk of being admitted to an intensive care unit or dying from an omicron was 83% lower., according to research.
Fauci also pointed to a study from South Africa that found that about 5% of infections during the omicron wave resulted in hospitalization, compared with 14% during the delta phase. Patients hospitalized during the omicron wave were 73% less likely to have severe illness compared to the delta wave. according to.
Fauci said the omicron lung infection is less serious than previous options. citing recent animal studies of mice and hamsters.
“The omicron virus has been shown to multiply very well in the upper respiratory tract and bronchi, but actually very poorly in the lungs,” Fauci said. While this does not conclusively prove that omicron is milder, it is consistent with a very rapidly transmitted variant that causes less serious lung infections, ”he said.
Fauci said the omicron variant is also less dangerous for children compared to the delta variant. However, he warned that hospital admissions are increasing among children, mostly unvaccinated, because omicron is highly contagious. He called on parents of children between the ages of 5 and 17 to get vaccinated against Covid.
Fauci warned that, even if the omicron turns out to be less serious, the option is spreading so quickly that it could still lead to large numbers of patients who actually require inpatient care, putting a strain on the country’s health care system.
More than 869,000 new Covid cases were reported in the US on Tuesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. According to CNBC’s analysis of Johns Hopkins data, the country reports an average of more than 553,000 new infections each day in seven days, more than double the previous week and a pandemic record.
“A certain proportion of a large number of cases, no matter which ones are serious,” Fauci said. “So don’t take this as a signal that we can drop the recommendation.”
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services as of Wednesday, about 110,000 Americans were hospitalized with Covid, up 39% from last week. Despite the sharp increase, this figure is still below the peak seen during the surge last winter, when more than 137,000 people were hospitalized in early January 2021.
Fauci cautioned against complacency, urging the public to follow public health guidelines by getting vaccinated, boosted vaccinations and wearing a mask.