Wed. Jan 19th, 2022

U.S. health officials said Sunday that although the omicron variant of coronavirus is spreading rapidly across the country, early indications are that it may be less dangerous than the delta, which continues to drive a wave of hospitalizations.

President Joe Biden’s top media adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that scientists need more information before they can draw conclusions about the severity of omicrons.

Reports from South Africa, where it emerged and is becoming the dominant tribe, suggest that hospitalization rates have not risen alarmingly.

“So far, it does not appear that there is a great deal of seriousness in it,” Fauci said. “But we have to be really careful before we make any decisions that it is less serious or it really does not cause any serious illness comparable to delta.”

Fauci said the Biden administration is considering lifting travel restrictions on non-nationals entering the United States from several African countries. They were imposed when the omicron variant exploded in the region, but UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has blown up such measures as “travel apartheid”.

“Hopefully we will be able to lift that ban within a very reasonable period of time,” Fauci said. “We are all very bad about the difficulties that have been inflicted not only on South Africa but on the other African countries.”

Omicron had been detected in about a third of US states on Sunday, including in the Northeast, South, Great Plains and West Coast. Wisconsin and Missouri were among the most recent states to confirm cases.

But delta remains the dominant variant, accounting for more than 99% of cases and driving a wave of hospitalizations in the north. The National Guard team has been dispatched to help overwhelmed hospitals in western New York, and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker issued an emergency order requiring all hospitals with limited patient capacity to reduce scheduled procedures that are not urgent.

U.S. officials went on to urge people to get vaccinated and receive booster shots, as well as take precautions, such as wearing masks when they are among strangers indoors, and say that anything that helps protect against delta will also help with protection against other variants.

Although omicron proves to be less dangerous than delta, it remains problematic, said the World Health Organization’s epidemiologist Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove for CBS ‘”Face The Nation.”

“Even if we have a large number of cases that are mild, some of these people will need hospitalizations,” she said. “They’ll have to go to the intensive care unit and some people will die. … We do not want to see that happen on top of an already difficult situation with the delta circulating globally.”

Two years into the eruption, COVID-19 has killed over 780,000 Americans, and the death toll runs to about 860 a day.

More than 6,600 new hospital admissions are reported daily, according to tracking data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

COVID-19 cases and deaths in the United States have dropped by about half since the Delta peak in August and September, but with more than 86,000 new infections a day, the numbers are still high, especially on the way into the holidays, where people travel and gather with family.

By Victor

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