Dr. Fauci Says This Is How the Pandemic Will End Now

The nation's top virus expert has altered his prediction thanks to the Omicron variant.

As we head into 2022, the U.S. will be entering its third year of COVID. Many virus experts had previously said they expected the new year would bring about the end of the pandemic, as they predicted Delta would be the last wave and hit its peak around Thanksgiving. But that same week, a new variant of the virus was detected. Omicron has spread so quickly, it's now the dominant variant in the U.S., accounting for more than 73 percent of infections in the country, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So what do virus experts expect to happen now that the Omicron variant is causing cases to surge once more? Read on to find out the latest prediction from top White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD.

RELATED: 70 Percent of Hospitalized Omicron Patients Have This in Common.

Dr. Fauci says people in the U.S. will likely have to learn to live with COVID.

woman with protective face mask travel by taxi. Businesswoman traveling by taxi during COVID-19 pandemic.

A true end to the COVID pandemic might no longer be in the cards, at least in the traditional sense. During a Dec. 21 interview with CBS Mornings, Fauci discussed the future of the pandemic amid the fast-spreading Omicron variant. According to the infectious disease expert, people in the U.S. will "likely" have to learn to live with the coronavirus, much like they already do with the common cold and flu.

But Fauci said this doesn't mean that the pandemic will continue to be as much of a problem as it is now. Eventually, the U.S. will reach a point where the level of infection is low and the virus won't dominate everyday life. "We hope we get there soon," he said.

COVID won't always be this severe, Fauci says.

Hospital Coronavirus Emergency Department Ward: Doctors wearing Coveralls, Face Masks Treat, Cure and Save Lives of Patients. Focus on Biohazard Sign on Door, Background Blurred Out of Focus

Despite warranted concerns, Omicron's ability to produce breakthrough cases and reinfections might be beneficial to the overall end of the pandemic, according to Fauci. The infectious disease expert said he hopes that there will be enough people either vaccinated or recovered from contracting COVID to have a "degree of immunity in the community" after this Omicron wave. That could potentially result in some type of population immunity that will help push COVID more from pandemic to endemic, where the virus is manageable and circulating at low levels.

"That's entirely conceivable and likely, as a matter of fact," Fauci said on CBS Mornings. "We are not going to be in a situation of this degree of intensity indefinitely."

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Fauci also warns that unvaccinated people still need to get vaccinated.

A senior man receiving a COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot from a healthcare worker

Unvaccinated people can't just wait out the virus, however. Fauci said that it's "critical" for those not yet vaccinated in the U.S. to get their shots in order to help curb the spread of the virus. Only a little more than 61 percent of the eligible U.S. population is fully vaccinated as of Dec. 22, according to the latest data from the CDC. But in order to get to a level where COVID is no longer dominating the country, Fauci said that this number must go up.

"We first have to get to the 50 million or so people who are eligible to be vaccinated who are not vaccinated," he explained. "If you want to keep the level of spread as low as possible, which will get us back to that level of normality, you have to get those people vaccinated."

And he said Omicron doesn't affect vaccinated and unvaccinated people the same.

Shot of a man coughing while recovering from an illness on the sofa at home

Omicron has created a rise of breakthrough cases, which can be attributed to its "really spectacular capability of spreading from person to person," Fauci said. With more breakthrough cases, some people might be questioning the need to get vaccinated. But these infections should not discourage people in the U.S. from getting their first shots or a booster dose, according to Fauci.

"They shouldn't throw up their hands and say, 'Well, if you can get infected even if you're vaccinated, why get vaccinated?'" he said. "There is a very big difference between a vaccinated and unvaccinated person when they get infected with regard to the consequences of that infection."

According to Fauci, both vaccinated and boosted people are significantly less likely to experience severe illness, even if they get infected with the Omicron variant. "The likelihood of a vaccinated and boosted person of getting seriously ill from the infection is very, very low. It's the unvaccinated people who are the most vulnerable not only to getting infected, but to getting a serious outcome," he explained.

RELATED: Dr. Fauci Warns Vaccinated People Not to Do This as Omicron Spreads.

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