Fauci says that while the variant is highly transmissible and is able to evade immunity, the nationwide uptick in cases as a result of Omicron is disproportionate to the number of hospitalizations, indicating the strain may be less severe.
“The pattern and disparity between cases and hospitalizations strongly suggest that there will be a lower hospitalization to case ratio when the situation becomes more clear,” said Fauci at Wednesday’s White House COVID update.
Fauci also pointed to studies abroad in countries where the Omicron strain has progressed for a longer period of time.
One South African study published Tuesday shows a 4.5 percent rate in Omicron hospital deaths compared to 21.3 percent in other strains. ICU admissions were 1 percent compared to 4.3 percent for others, and 45 percent of Omicron admissions required supplemental oxygen compared to 99 percent of other strains. Omicron also had a reduced length of hospital stay with four days compared to about nine before.
The vaccination rate in South Africa is much lower than it is in the United States.
A recent United Kingdom study shows an overall reduced risk of hospitalization with Omicron. According to the study, the risk of presentation to emergency care or hospital admission with Omicron is 60 percent that of Delta.
“We’re looking forward, as I think everyone feels is appropriate, that, ultimately, when we’re going to have to, quote, ‘live’ with something that will not be eradicated and very likely would not be eliminated, but can actually be at such a lower level of control,” said Fauci.
COVID cases in the United States are up significantly compared to last week with a 60 percent overall increase to an average of 240,400 cases per day.
Meanwhile, hospitalizations and deaths nationwide remain comparatively low. The week over week increase in hospital admissions was 14 percent to about 9,000 per day. Daily deaths went down by about 7 percent to 1,100 per day.
Fauci continues to push vaccines and booster shots to combat the virus and said Wednesday it is “conceivable” that a fourth shot of mRNA vaccine would be recommended in the future.
This week, the CDC has issued a newly shortened, five-day period of recommended isolation for asymptomatic individuals who test positive for COVID.