White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Jan. 23 that he’s “as confident as you can be” that most of the United States will reach a peak in Omicron coronavirus variant infections within the middle of February.
“You never want to be overconfident when you’re dealing with this virus,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC’s “This Week.” “But if you look at the patterns that we’ve seen in South Africa, in the UK, and in Israel and in the northeast and New England and upper midwest states, they have peaked and [are] starting to come down rather sharply.
“There are still some states in the southern states and western states that continue to go up.”
If the pattern follows the downward trend seen in other places, such as the Northeast, Fauci said the United States will start to see a similar “turnaround throughout the entire country.”
“Since it’s a large country and a great deal of variation in the degree of vaccinations that we have in one region compared to another, ultimately, they’re all going to go in the same direction.”
However, Fauci noted that those areas of the country that haven’t been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or received vaccine booster shots may still see “a bit more pain and suffering with hospitalizations.”
“But we do know—these are the recent data that have come out from the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]—that, even with Omicron, boosting makes a major, major difference in protecting you from hospitalization and severe outcomes, so things are looking good.”
While Biden’s chief medical adviser appeared to be optimistic about the outlook for the United States with regard to hitting peak Omicron infections soon, he cautioned against being “overconfident” that things could move in this more positive direction.
Fauci’s comments come after World Health Organization (WHO) officials said the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over and that new variants of the virus are likely to continue to emerge.
“We’re hearing a lot of people suggest that Omicron is the last variant, that it’s over after this. And that is not the case,” the WHO’s technical lead officer on COVID-19 said at a briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, last week.
WHO Health Emergencies Program Executive Director Dr. Michael Ryan said “we may never end the virus” because such pandemic viruses “end up becoming part of the ecosystem.”
However, Ryan noted that the worst of the pandemic—such as deaths, hospitalizations, and lockdowns—could be over in 2022, as long as issues with the distribution of vaccines and treatments are addressed quickly
“What we need to do is get to low levels of disease incidence with maximum vaccination of our populations, so nobody has to die,” Ryan said. “The issue is: It’s the death. It’s the hospitalizations. It’s the disruption of our social, economic, political systems that’s caused the tragedy—not the virus.”
Last week, Israel—one of the most vaccinated countries in the world—announced the largest rise in infections since the start of the pandemic, driven by a surge in Omicron cases. The Israeli Ministry of Health stated that more than 72,000 people tested positive for COVID-19. Authorities are hopeful that a fourth vaccine shot will help blunt the current wave of infections.