The omicron variant of the coronavirus has been reported in the U.S., including in Maryland on Friday, but Dr. Anthony Fauci said that although this latest variant is obviously of some concern, it’s “nothing to panic about” right now.
That’s because “we don’t know everything about it,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden.
Among the unknowns are whether the omicron variant makes people sicker and whether it can evade vaccines and boosters.
Fauci, who spoke to WTOP on Friday, said more information might initially come from South Africa, where omicron was first identified.
Scientists in South Africa recently reported that preliminary findings suggested omicron may cause increased reinfections among people who’ve already had COVID-19.
Scientists have also observed that omicron appears to have a good degree of capability of transmission, and is possibly more transmissible than the delta variant.
“So what we need to do is just keep just keep following the situation, getting as much information and data as we can,” Fauci told WTOP.
But for now, he does not think there should be an extra level of concern over reports of the omicron variant’s presence in the U.S.
“We should expect that we’re going to start to see cases scattered throughout the country,” Fauci said.
In the meantime, he advises getting vaccinated if you haven’t yet, and if you are vaccinated, getting a booster. And this holiday season, be prudent, especially with masking up. Wear a mask if you’re gathering indoors; wear a mask if you don’t know the level of vaccination in the group.
Fauci echoed Biden, who on Monday said the latest variant is a cause for concern but “not a cause for panic.” Biden called for Americans to get vaccinated, get a booster and also go back to wearing masks in indoor public settings.
During a speech at the National Institutes of Health Thursday, Biden said the latest variant will be fought with “science and speed, not chaos and confusion.”
Fauci said part of the president’s plan also includes increasing testing, more vaccinations and boosters and more stringent testing requirements for international travelers.
Fauci also touted America’s role in giving out more vaccine doses to the rest of the world than all other donor countries combined, and he said there are plans to expand the capacity of pharmaceutical companies to make more doses that will be given to the developing world.
“We take very seriously how important it is to make doses available to lower- and middle-income countries. Because when there’s virus anywhere in the world, there’s danger everywhere. And that’s the reason why we’ve got to get global control over this,” Fauci said.
Biden said that the U.S. will increase the delivery of more vaccines to countries that need it, pledging to deliver 200 million doses in the next 100 days. He said that the U.S. is on its way to delivering more than 1.2 billion doses for the rest of the world.
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