WASHINGTON — The United States is experiencing “almost a vertical increase” in COVID-19 cases as the Omicron variant sweeps the country, but the peak may be only weeks away, top US pandemic advisor Anthony Fauci says.
“We are definitely in the middle of a very severe surge and uptick in cases,” Fauci says on ABC’s “This Week,” calling the soaring infection rate “really unprecedented.”
With the Omicron variant of the virus sweeping around the world, more than 440,000 new cases were reported in the US on Friday, almost exactly 200,000 more than during a peak last February.
But Fauci says the experience of South Africa — where the strain was first detected in late November and peaked quickly, then subsided almost as quickly — offered some hope.
Evidence is mounting, he adds, that Omicron is milder than previous variants. The US rates of deaths and hospitalizations have been far lower in recent weeks than during previous COVID surges.
The United States, like other countries, has been struggling to find a balance that will protect public health without gravely damaging the economy or slamming key services like policing and air travel.
With children set to return to school Monday following the year-end break, both Fauci and the US education secretary said they thought in-person instruction can be conducted safely if proper precautions are taken.
Fauci again pleads with parents to be sure their children are vaccinated, wear masks and get tested if need be.
“I think all those things put together, it’s safe enough to get those kids back to school, balanced against the deleterious effects of keeping them out,” Fauci says.