The omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly throughout the United States. Still, early indications show that it is less dangerous than the delta variant, which continues to generate a surge in hospitalisations.
In an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union,” Dr Anthony Fauci, Joe Biden’s principal medical advisor, said that experts need more data before reaching conclusions on the severity of Omicron. According to South Africa, where it originated and is now the prevalent strain, hospitalisation rates have not risen drastically.
Fauci added, “Thus far, it does not appear to be of significant severity.” We need to be cautious before saying that it is less severe or does not produce a more severe disease than the delta variant.
According to Fauci, the Biden administration is considering easing travel restrictions for non-citizens from several African countries. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned such restrictions as “travel apartheid” enforced as the omicron variant exploded in the region.
Fauci expressed hope that the restriction might be lifted within a reasonable amount of time. In the end, “we all feel very sorry for the burden that has been imposed on not only South Africa, but on the other African countries.”
About a third of the United States has been hit by Omicron as of Sunday morning, including New York City and New Jersey and other states in the South and Great Plains. There have been confirmed cases in Wisconsin, Missouri, and Louisiana in the last few weeks.
An increase in hospitalisations in the north has been attributed to the prevalent variant, delta, accounting for more than 99 per cent of cases. Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts has issued an emergency order forcing hospitals with the limited patient capacity to minimise scheduled treatments that are not essential. National Guard units have been dispatched to help overcrowded hospitals in western New York.
Vaccination and booster doses, as well as precautions such as wearing masks when indoors with strangers, are all still being urged by U.S. experts, who stress that protecting against the delta variant will also help protect against other variants.
World Health Organization Epidemiologist Dr Maria Van Kerkhove told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that it is still an issue even if Omicron proves to be less harmful than delta.
In the event of a large number of mild instances, some people will need to be hospitalised, she said. People will have to be taken to the hospital, and some will die. On top of all that, we don’t want to see delta circulating across the world.”
Over the past two years, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than 780,000 people in the United States, with an average of 860 deaths every day.
US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention tracking data shows that 6,600 new hospital admissions are reported each day.
At a rate of 86,000 new infections per day, COVID-19 cases and deaths have decreased by almost half since their peak in August and September. However, the numbers are still high as people travel and gather with family for the holidays.