Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease specialist, warned on Sunday that the United States is likely to see record numbers of coronavirus cases, hospitalisations and deaths as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly.
“Unfortunately, I think that that is going to happen. We are going to see a significant stress in some regions of the country on the hospital system, particularly in those areas where you have a low level of vaccination,” Fauci said on CNN’s State of the Union.
He continued to urge the unvaccinated to get their shots and those who have received only two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines to get booster doses. Although vaccines cannot be the only layer of protection against the Omicron variant, he said, defeating the pandemic would not be possible without them.
Fauci described Omicron as “extraordinary,” with a doubling time of two to three days. The variant accounts for 50 percent of coronavirus cases in certain regions of the country, which meant it would almost certainly take over as the dominant variant in the United States, he added.
“It is going to be a tough few weeks, months as we get deeper into the winter,” Fauci said.
Fauci conceded that the Biden administration needed to do better about increasing the availability of at-home coronavirus rapid tests, though he stressed that the country was in a much better place than it was a year ago, with 200 million to 500 million tests available per month, many of them free.
“We’re going in the right direction,” he said. “We really need to flood the system with testing. We need to have tests available for anyone who wants them, particularly when we’re in a situation right now where people are going to be gathering.”