Dr Anthony Fauci (pictured), the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warns that America’s Covid situation will worsen in the coming weeks, and around 500,000 people could be infected every day in coming weeks
Americans have been told by President Joe Biden’s covid tsar Dr. Anthony Fauci to cancel big parties as the Omicron variant tears across the nation.
Daily cases have spiked in recent weeks, up 68 percent over the past two weeks, and America’s top infectious disease expert warns that things will only worsen in the near future.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), told ABC’s Good Morning America (GMA) that the surge may only be beginning, and that Americans should expect the situation to exacerbate over the coming weeks.
‘It’s going to get worse before it gets better. That’s for sure,’ he said.
‘We don’t expect things are going to turn around in a few days to a week. It likely will take much longer than that. But that’s unpredictable.’
The NIAID director is also calling for the expanded use of vaccine passports to include domestic flights, barring unvaccinated people from flying within the country.
‘When you make vaccination a requirement, that’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated,’ Fauci told MSNBC on Monday.
‘If you want to do that with domestic flights, I think that’s something that seriously should be considered.’
Cases in the U.S. have exploded over the past two weeks, as the newly discovered strain begins to take hold in the country. America is currently averaging 198,326 cases every day, an 68 percent increase over the past two weeks. Deaths and hospitalizations have not followed, though. The U.S. has not recorded a higher seven day case average since January 19, the backside of the nation’s most devastating Covid surge to date.
The country is averaging 71,302 hospitalizations every day, only an eight percent increase over two weeks. Deaths are up three percent during that time span to 1,328 per day. This could be a signal of the Omicron variant – which accounts for 73 percent of cases in the U.S. according to most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – being more mild than other strains. Deaths and hospitalizations do lag behind cases, though, and a similar spike could be seen in those metrics soon as well, though.
Fauci wants vaccine passports for domestic flights
Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, called for vaccine requirements for domestic flights in the U.S. on Monday morning
‘When you make vaccination a requirement, that’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated,’ he told MSNBC on Monday
Fauci’s call comes as cases explode in the U.S., even among the fully vaccinated, as an Omicron fueled surge has caused a near 70% increase in cases over the past two weeks
Thousands of U.S. flights have been cancelled in recent days as airliners struggle with staffing issues caused by the virus
Around 72% of Americans are fully vaccinated, and more than 60 million residents have received their additional booster shot as well
Fauci says it’s not possible to predict when the Omicron variant surge will come to an end because different countries have seen varied patterns.
‘Each demography of a country is different,’ he said.
‘South Africa went way way up and then came back down. The UK is still going up. Hopefully they’ll turn around because we usually lag somewhat behind them temporarily. And then in other words, what happens there generally happens here, a couple two, three weeks later.’
He told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on Monday morning that the country could reach 500,000 new cases per day at some point during the current surge. The U.S. reached a record of 250,000 new cases per day in early 2020 – before the vaccines were widely available – meaning this surge could double the previous case record.
Fauci also says that Americans should consider cancelling their New Years plans to avoid spreading the virus even more, and making the nation’s Covid situation worse. While small family gatherings could be ok, he warns against large parties.
‘I have been telling people consistently that if you’re vaccinated and boosted and you have a family setting, in the home with family and relatives,’ Fauci told CNN.
‘But when you’re talking about a New Year’s Eve party, we have 30, 40, 50 people celebrating. You do not know the status of their vaccination, I would recommend strongly stay away from that this year.’
The Omicron variant, which was first discovered by South African health officials in late November, is the most mutated Covid strain yet. It have for than 50 mutations, including 37 on the spike protein targeted by the Covid vaccines.
Research performed by vaccine manufacturers and independent health experts have repeatedly found that the initial vaccine regimens – two shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine – are not effective at preventing infection from the variant.
Additional booster doses of the Pfizer and Moderna jabs can re-establish protection, though. According to CDC data, 72 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated against Covid, and 64.5 million people have received their booster shot.
The U.S. has confirmed 8,333 cases of the variant as of Monday morning, though the real case figure is much higher. Only two other countries have confirmed more cases.
The UK is the world’s leader in confirmed Omicron cases – and as Fauci believes, serves as a look into the future for the U.S. The nation has recorded 114,625 cases, more than triple any other nation and nearly two out of every three confirmed cases.
London, the nation’s capital, has become a global Omicron hotspot. Covid related hospital admissions have jumped by 92 percent, and some fear that more lockdowns could be on the way in the new year. Some officials even fear the National Hospital System (NHS) could be totally overwhelmed if this trend continues.
Countries across Europe are getting hammered by the variant, as countries like France, Germany, Denmark and Norway are in the midst of Omicron fueled Covid surges of their own.
In South Africa, which suffered the world’s first known outbreak of the variant, cases are trending downwards, though. Over the past ten days, cases have dropped 35 percent form 23,000 per day to 15,000, a sign that the variant could already be burning out.
“It’s gonna get worse before it gets better…We don’t expect things are going to turn around in a few days to a week — it will likely take much longer than that.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci on the omicron surge and testing shortages. https://t.co/JfNne5sHfU pic.twitter.com/05ZCKa854z
— Good Morning America (@GMA) December 27, 2021
While the Omicron variant is tearing across the United States, Fauci does believe there are a few positives to gather from the recent surge.
‘It looks like the degree of severity of the disease is considerably less than they experienced with Delta,’ Fauci told CNN on Monday.
‘We’re seeing inklings of that now in the United States. The UK is also seeing that. So I do hope that we do have the net effect is a diminution in the degree of severity.’
This could be the reason why deaths and hospitalizations in the U.S. have fallen far behind the rate of new cases.
Fauci does warn that even if a lower percentage of people are hospitalized with the virus, the sheer volume of cases could still overwhelm hospital systems if the situation worsens enough.
‘But the sheer volume of cases that we’re seeing now — yesterday we had 214,000 cases. Even with a diminution in severity we still could have a surge on hospitals, particularly among the unvaccinated, which we’re really worried about,’ he said.
It is also possible that thousands of Covid cases are currently going undetected, and that many people who are spreading the virus do not even know they have it yet, because of a massive testing shortage striking much of America.
At-home rapid and PCR tests are sold out at many major U.S. retailers. Testing locations have also been plagued with hours long lines, especially in the days preceding Christmas as millions checked their Covid status ahead of holiday travel.
‘You know, testing has always been an issue … that has been problematic. It has been compounded by the situation of the high demands,’ Fauci told CNN.
‘We had a conflation of high demands — high demands because of the concern about Omicron which is a justifiable concern, but the high demand that was triggered by the holiday season, people getting ready to travel getting ready to go and mix with family members and friends. It’s been a very, very strong run on testing.’
The Biden administration has announced plans to help quell this demand, distributing 500,000 at-home Covid tests to Americans in January.
The President also has a scheduled call with state governors around America scheduled for Monday to address whatever needs each individual state might have.
Omicron has also disrupted the U.S.’s travel industry. Case surges among airline and airport staff has left the industry shorthanded in recent weeks. Over 10,000 flights have been cancelled nationwide since Christmas week due to Covid issues, including hundreds more on Monday.
Amid these issues, Fauci is also asking for unvaccinated people to be barred from flying in order to prevent transmission in the close quarters many are in on planes or in the airport. He also said that the lifting of mask mandates on planes should not be lifted at this time.
‘We want to make sure people keep their masks on. I think the idea of taking masks off, in my mind, is really not something we should even be considering,’ Fauci told ABC.
‘…And of course, the airline CEOs were suggesting that — you know, that we may not — may no longer need a mask. I hear you loud and clearly, you disagree with that on an — on the airplane.
‘…I think if you look at wearing a mask and the filtration on planes, things are reasonably safe.’
He also asks for Americans to avoid large New Years Eve gatherings, fearing that festivities could cause a large jump in cases.
New York is the hardest struck state by the new strain, with 167 out of every 100,000 residents testing positive for the virus every day, a 238 percent increase over the past two weeks. The Empire state has the highest infection rate in the U.S.
Seven states, including New York, have more than 100 out of every 100,000 residents testing positive for Covid daily. These include New Jersey (158 out of every 100,000), Rhode Island (130), Delaware (106), Maryland (104), Massachusetts (104) and Ohio (104).
Some of these states are experiencing intense case growth in recent weeks as well. In Maryland – which has begun reporting cases again after a technical glitch prevented the state from doing so in recent weeks – has seen cases increased by 370 percent.
In New Jersey, the number of new daily cases have increased by 220 percent – over tripling over 14 days. The other states among the nation’s leaders in Covid case rate have all also seen infections jump by 50 percent or more over the past two weeks.
Hawaii has suffered the largest growth in cases, jumping almost ten-fold over the past two weeks. The island state can usually control its Covid spread better than many others, as its distance from the rest of the country and geography as an island makes it easier to control travel in and out – and force quarantine restrictions.
This allowed Hawaii to keep cases low throughout much of fall, staying below ten cases per every 100,000 residents. Cases have rocketed in recent weeks, though, up to 96 out of every 100,000 residents testing positive every day.
Florida, which sporadically reports cases, has logged a 818 percent increase in cases over the past two weeks – averaging 83 new cases a day out of every 100,000 residents. These numbers could be a result of delayed reporting, though, and could significantly shrink in the coming weeks.
Georgia is quickly joining the states facing the worst Covid surges in America as well, with cases increasing 300 percent to 55 out of every 100,000 per day over the past two weeks.
States in the west that were previously recording little change in cases, if not outright declines, have seen cases jump as well.
California, the nation’s most populous state, has witnessed a doubling of cases over the past two weeks. Oregon, a 13 percent increase, and Washington, 54 percent, have jumped after experiencing case declines in recent weeks as well.
Other states suffering massive case increases include Texas (151 percent), Illinois (125 percent), Virginia (106 percent) and Mississippi (194 percent).
In the UK, for which Fauci says is a harbinger for the UK, New Years festivities may be cancelled as well.
Gillian Keegan, the nation’s care minister, warned last week that some holiday festivities would have to be scaled back amid the Omicron surge.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to meet with some health leaders, like England’s Chief Medical Official Chris Whitty, to discuss plans going forward. Early signals have many hopeful that Johnson will not institute lockdowns or other restrictions ahead of the New Year.
The nation was averaging 100,000 new cases per day ahead of the Christmas holiday weekend, where reporting was minimal. It was the highest point ever recorded during the pandemic, nearly doubling the 57,000 case per day record from January 2021.
When reporting continues this week, it is likely a new case record will be set in the nation.
London has emerged as a global Omicron hotspot in recent weeks. Officials believe that nearly five percent of the 8.9 million residents of the city were infected last week, and feared the rate increased during the weekend.
Covid related hospitalizations are also trending upwards, surging from around 300 cases per day to nearly 400 over the course of only a few days last week.
Lockdowns could be on the way in France, where a record 100,000 cases were logged on Christmas, a new record for the western European country. Over 3,300 people also are receiving intensive care in French hospitals, above the 3,000 threshold set by national leaders.
Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron plans to hold a meeting with key health officials on Monday to discuss potential lockdowns and other Covid restrictions ahead of the new year.
The country has also recorded 1,980 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant, the seventh most of any country in the world.
In Germany, some leisure facilities have been shut down, and restaurants will be forced to close early as part of new lockdowns instituted in the nation amid a new surge.
The country is currently in the midst of its most devasting Covid surge to date, though cases are on the downswing after reaching a peak in late November, just as Omicron had been discovered. Only four countries have confirmed more than the 3,198 cases of the new strain confirmed in Germany.
Some rare good news is coming out of South Africa, though. Cases are down over 30 percent in recent days, signaling the variant could be running out of steam in the country. Between the country’s vaccination rate, and the amount of people that have some sort of immunity from the virus due to previous infection, experts predict around 80 percent of people have at least some immunity from the virus.
Hospitalizations dropped last week for the first time since the variant was discovered as well, with 6,275 people being admitted because of Covid complications, down from 8,806 the previous week.
In the Gauteng province, where the variant was initially detected, hospitalizations were slashed in half last week, from 2,696 to 1,329 – the second consecutive week of decreasing hospitalizations