On Sunday, U.S. health officials said that while the omicron variant of the coronavirus is rapidly spreading, early indications suggest it may be less dangerous than the delta variant, which is still causing problems for the country as it continues to drive a surge of hospitalization.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the President’s chief medical adviser, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that scientists need more information before coming to conclusions about omicron’s severity. “Thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it,” said Fauci. “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.” According to AP News, reports from South Africa, where the variant was first recorded and is the dominant strain, suggest that hospitalization rates have not increased alarmingly.
Omicron has been detected in about a third of U.S. states by Sunday, including the Northeast, the South, the Great Plains, and the West Coast, says AP News. While that is alarming, delta still remains the more dominant variant, making up more than 99% of cases and driving the surge of hospitalizations in the north. National Guard teams have been sent to help overwhelmed hospitals in western New York.
Fauci also said that the Biden administration is considering lifting travel restrictions against noncitizens entering the United States from several African countries. The ban was set as the omicron variant exploded in the region, but U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called such measures “travel apartheid.” Fauci says that they will hopefully lift the ban in “a quite reasonable period of time.”