Even as the Omicron variant rapidly spreads across the globe, cases of Covid-19 are likely going to keep surging, top US infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has said. The highly transmissible variant has outpaced Delta, to become the dominant variant, accounting for nearly three-quarters of Covid cases in the country.
According to Johns Hopkins University’s latest update on Monday morning, the US continues to be the worst-hit country with the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 52,259,716 and 816,597. Till last Thursday, the US had reported more than 51 million total cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The US also topped 800,000 total deaths from the disease in mid-December.
“Every day it goes up and up. The last weekly average was about 150,000 and it likely will go much higher,” Fauci said.
While studies show Omicron is less severe in terms of hospitalisations, Fauci stressed that people should not “to get complacent” because “when you have such a high volume of new infections, it might override a real diminution in severity.”
“If you have many, many, many more people with a less level of severity, that might kind of neutralise the positive effect of having less severity when you have so many more people,” he explained. “And we’re particularly worried about those who are in that unvaccinated class … those are the most vulnerable ones when you have a virus that is extraordinarily effective in getting to people.”
Only 61.7 per cent of the US population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to CDC data.
Meanwhile, last week President Joe Biden announced a plan to distribute 500 million free at-home rapid tests to Americans beginning in January. The tests will be delivered by mail to Americans who request them. A website to request the tests will launch in January, according to the administration.
However, the Omicron surge has created a massive rush for tests, which according to Fauci is a failure of the federal government. “Obviously, testing is going to be very important, that we get a greater capability of testing, particularly when the demand for testing is so high,” Fauci said.
Fauci noted that the US is seeing “the combination of the Omicron variant itself, as well as the holiday season, where people want to get that extra level of assuredness that they’re protected,” even if you are vaccinated and boosted.
“One of the problems is that that’s not going to be totally available to everyone until we get to January, and there are still some issues now of people having trouble getting tested, but we’re addressing the testing problem, and that very soon that will be corrected” he said.
Further, he said that there were “essentially no rapid points of care home tests available” in the beginning of the Biden administration in 2021.
“Now there are over nine of them and more coming”, he said adding “the production of them has been rapidly upscaled”.
Last week, Biden was quoted as saying on ABC News that he wished he “had thought about ordering” 500 million at-home tests “two months ago”. Biden added “nothing’s been good enough” when it comes to the availability of at-home tests.