On Sunday, U.S. health officials said that while the omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly across the country, early signs indicate it may be less dangerous than delta, which continues to drive up hospital admissions.
President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told CNN State of the Union that scientists need more information before drawing conclusions about the severity of the omicron.
Reports from South Africa, where it originated and is becoming the dominant strain, suggest that hospital admissions have not increased alarmingly.
“It doesn’t sound like seriousness yet,” Fauci said. “But we really have to be careful before we draw any conclusions that it is less serious or does not actually cause serious delta-like disease.”
Fauci said the Biden administration is considering lifting travel restrictions for non-citizens entering the United States from several African countries. They were introduced when a variant of the omicron exploded in the region, but UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pounced on measures such as “tourist apartheid”.
“I hope we can lift this ban within a reasonable time frame,” Fauci said. “We are all very worried about the adversity that has befallen not only South Africa, but other African countries as well.”
By Sunday, Omicron was found in about a third of the US states, including the northeast, south, Great Plains, and west coast. Wisconsin, Missouri and Louisiana were among the last states to confirm cases.
But delta remains the dominant option, accounting for over 99% of cases and causing a wave of hospitalizations in the north. National Guard teams were sent to help overcrowded hospitals in western New York, and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker issued an emergency order requiring all hospitals with disabilities for patients to cut back on planned procedures that are not urgent.
U.S. officials continued to urge people to get vaccinated and boosted and to take precautions such as wearing masks when among strangers indoors, saying anything that helps protect against delta will also help protect against other options.
“Even if the omicron turns out to be less dangerous than the delta, it remains problematic,” World Health Organization epidemiologist Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove told CBS’s Face The Nation.
“Even if we have a large number of mild cases, some of these people will need hospitalization,” she said. “They will need to go to an intensive care unit and some people will die … We do not want this to happen against the backdrop of an already difficult situation with the global spread of the delta.”
Two years after the outbreak began, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than 780,000 Americans in an estimated 860 deaths per day.
More than 6,600 new hospitalizations are registered daily, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
U.S. COVID-19 cases and deaths have roughly halved since the delta peaks in August and September, but with more than 86,000 new infections per day, those numbers are still high, especially ahead of the holidays when people travel and get together. with family.