Speaking to CNN on Sunday, the top infectious disease expert said that even though Omicron, the new coronavirus variant possibly behind the recent surge, is believed to be milder than the previous variants, its higher transmissibility means cases could spiral at uncontrollable rates.
“There will certainly be a lot more cases because this is a much more transmissible virus than Delta is,” Fauci said in the interview.
“The only difficulty is that if you have so many cases, even if the rate of hospitalisation is lower with Omicron than it is with Delta, there is still the danger that you will have a surging of hospitalizations that might stress the healthcare system,” he added.
Fauci reiterated, however, that the variant appears to be less severe. “It looks, in fact, that it (Omicron) might be less severe, at least from data that we’ve gathered from South Africa, from the UK and even some from preliminary data from here in the United States,” he added.
Just last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had shortened the recommended time for isolation for asymptomatic Americans with COVID-19 to five days from 10 days. The policy does not require testing to confirm that a person is no longer infectious before they go back to work or socialize, causing worry among some experts.
In an interview to ABC News, Fauci said that the CDC will soon come out with a clarification on the requirement of a negative test before ending the five-day isolation.
“You’re right. There has been some concern about why we don’t ask people at that five-day period to get tested. That is something that is now under consideration. I think we’re going to be hearing more about that in the next day or so from the CDC,” he said.
Countries across the world, including the United States, have witnessed an explosion of COVID-19 cases in the past few days, casting a shadow on Christmas and New Year eve festivities.
Health experts in the US have warned Americans of a landslide surge in the coming weeks, as the case count in the country continues to rise.