Washington: Bidne’s health officials said Sunday that while the omicron variant of the coronavirus is rapidly spreading throughout the country, early indications suggest it may be less dangerous than delta, which continues to drive a surge of hospitalizations.
President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that scientists need more information before drawing conclusions about omicron’s severity.
Reports from South Africa, where it emerged and is becoming the dominant strain, suggest that hospitalization rates have not increased alarmingly.
“Thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it,” Fauci said. “But we have really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or it really doesn’t cause any severe illness, comparable to delta.”
Fauci said the Biden administration is considering lifting travel restrictions against noncitizens entering the United States from several African countries. They were imposed as the omicron variant exploded in the region, but U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has blasted such measures as “travel apartheid.”
Omicron had been detected in about a third of U.S. states by Sunday, including in the Northeast, the South, the Great Plains and the West Coast. Wisconsin, Missouri and Louisiana were among the latest states to confirm cases.
But delta remains the dominant variant, making up more than 99% of cases and driving a surge of hospitalizations in the north.
Even if omicron proves less dangerous than delta, it remains problematic, WHO epidemiologist Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove told CBS’ “Face The Nation.”
“Even if we have a large number of cases that are mild, some of those individuals will need hospitalizations,” she said. “They will need to go into ICU and some people will die. … We don’t want to see that happen on top of an already difficult situation with delta circulating globally.”