Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical advisor, cautioned Wednesday that reports of milder coronavirus disease should not be taken as an indication that the United States can relax its health recommendations and restrictions.
At a briefing by the White House COVID-19 taskforce, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert stated that multiple sources of preliminary data suggest a decrease in the severity of disease from the variant of concern.
He said that scientists in the U.S. and other countries need to do a more definitive assessment of similarity, with longer-term follow-up.
“But, we shouldn’t be complacent as the increased transmissibility [of variant… omicron] might be overridden due to the sheer volume (although with a lower severity) of cases that could still strain our hospital [systems]. Fauci explained that a significant proportion of cases from a large number of patients – regardless of their severity – will be severe.
He said, “Don’t interpret this as a sign that we can reverse from the recommendations you just heard Dr. [Rochelle] Walensky – about the need for vaccination, bolstering, wearing masks, and all the other CDC recommendations.”
Walensky, who is the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stated that omicron now accounts for 95% of all new COVID-19 cases in the country. She stated to reporters that there had been a spike in the number of cases linked to travel during the holidays in the United States and encouraged people to get vaccinated.
According to CDC data, 78.4% of Americans aged 12 or older have been fully vaccinated. 71.6 million people have had a booster shot.
Although there was some discussion about what “fully vaccinated”, meant by the extra shots, the White House stated that they have no plans to change it.
Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, stated that people are fully vaccinated when they have received their primary series vaccines. This highlights the fact that many of the deaths and hospitalizations are caused by the unvaccinated.
Daily COVID-19 cases have risen in the U.S. this month. Omicron quickly spread, and New Yorkers have waited hours for PCR tests or searched for rapid antigen tests.
Wednesday’s White House statement stated that the Biden Administration’s promise to provide 500 million rapid testing is in place.
“Overall we are making significant progress towards the 500 million. As you know, the public procurement process has been closed as of yesterday. The next week will see the start of deliveries from the manufacturers of testing equipment to the U.S. government. Americans will begin receiving free tests over the next few weeks,” Zients stated, adding that a website would also be created to assist Americans.
According to him, the White House will do more to expand access to testing because of the high demand for testing that has been driven by the transmissibility of omicron.