Dr. Fauci Says This Is When We'll Have "Control" Over Omicron
The top health official is hoping increased vaccinations will finally get life back to normal.
Thanks to the Omicron variant, 2022 is beginning with the pandemic in a very different place than most might've expected months ago. The highly contagious viral offshoot has sent case numbers soaring well above the previous heights seen in the U.S. last winter, with the daily average surpassing 400,000 on Jan. 2, according to data from The New York Times. But even as the variant continues to drive an unprecedented surge, Anthony Fauci, MD, chief White House COVID adviser, recently said he believes there's still a way to bring Omicron under control relatively soon. Read on to see how quickly the top health official hopes we can start getting life back to normal.
Fauci believes we could begin to have control over Omicron as soon as February or March.
During a Jan. 2 appearance on ABC's This Week, Fauci expressed optimism that we could correct course on the pandemic relatively quickly by using tools already at our disposal. "The best piece of news…is that if we continue—and I hope that people who are now seeing the devastating effects that this virus has done on us—with an Omicron surge that we get more people vaccinated to the point that when Omicron comes down to a low level, we keep it down at a low level enough that it doesn't disrupt our society, our economy, our way of life," he said. "That's what I'm hoping for. I hope that as we get into February and March and such that we will be at that level of control."
However, Fauci was careful to explain to host George Stephanopoulos that his outlook wasn't necessarily a forecast. "That's not a prediction, George, because it's dangerous to predict," he clarified.
The Omicron surge could still cause a spike in hospitalizations.
However, Fauci still warned that the pandemic still posed some potentially catastrophic challenges in the near term. During an appearance on CNN's State of the Union the same day, he told host Dana Bash that the recent flood of infections could still overwhelm our abilities to care for those who are seriously ill.
"There will certainly be a lot more cases because this is a much more transmissible virus than Delta is," Fauci cautioned. "The only difficulty is that if you have so many cases, even if the rate of hospitalization is lower with Omicron than it is with Delta, there is still the danger that you will have a surging of hospitalizations that might stress the healthcare system."
Fauci said there was growing evidence that Omicron may be less likely to cause severe illness.
But even though it may be some time before the wave develops, Fauci also told CNN that evidence was pointing towards the latest version of the virus being less likely to cause grave illness. "It looks, in fact, that [Omicron] might be less severe, at least from data that we've gathered from South Africa, from the U.K., and even some from preliminary data from here in the United States."
During his appearance on This Week, Fauci also said that even though hospitalizations were "late, lagging indicators," he was optimistic that the variant would prove to be less potent. "I still believe there is indication … the virus does seem to have lower intrinsic pathogenicity to it," he clarified. "We're hoping that's the case."
Fauci believes an increase in vaccinations and boosters will help us get Omicron under control.
When asked by Stephanopoulos whether the most recent evidence was a sign that officials should be focusing more on the national hospitalization rate rather than caseloads, Fauci ultimately agreed. However, he cautioned that some were still more susceptible to Omicron than others.
"I'm still very concerned about the tens of millions of people who are not vaccinated at all because even though many of them are going to get asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic, a fair number of them are going to get severe disease," he warned.
Fauci ultimately said that his outlook of getting Omicron under control by February or March rested on getting more people protected against COVID. "I'm just telling [you] what I hope we can do because I believe we can do it if we do all the things available for us," he explained. "Again, get vaccinated if you are not vaccinated, and get boosted if you are vaccinated."