Dr. Anthony Fauci sounded cautiously optimistic today that the omicron wave was peaking nationally in the United States and that coronavirus cases could fall to manageable levels in the coming months.
“What we would hope,” Fauci, President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser for COVID-19, said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” “is that, as we get into the next weeks to month or so, we’ll see throughout the entire country the level of infection get to below what I call that area of control.”
That did not mean eradicating the virus, Fauci said. Infections will continue. “They’re there, but they don’t disrupt society,” he said. “That’s the best-case scenario.”
Similar to rapid rises and then declines in omicron cases in South Africa and Britain, new cases in the U.S. are now dropping in the Northeast and upper Midwest.
“There are still some states in the Southern states and Western states that continue to go up,” Fauci said, “but if the pattern follows the trend that we’re seeing in other places such as the Northeast, I believe that you will start to see a turnaround throughout the entire country.”
As of Saturday, an average of more than 705,700 new cases were being identified every day, an increase of 8% over the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database. Hospitalizations nationwide are averaging 159,500 each day, a record and an increase of about 25%. Average new deaths are now 2,152 a day, up 41%.
“There may be a bit more pain and suffering with hospitalizations in those areas of the country that have not been fully vaccinated or have not gotten boosted,” Fauci said.
Hospitals in several parts of the country are straining to keep up after multiple surges and staffing shortages, including in Mississippi, where nearly all of the state’s acute-care hospitals have been pushed to capacity.
He advised that remaining ready for the possibility of what he called “the worst-case scenario” would be wise.
“I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but we have to be prepared,” he said, describing that situation as “we get yet again another variant that has characteristics that would be problematic, like a high degree of transmissibility or a high degree of virulence.”
But overall, he said, “things are looking good. We don’t want to get overconfident, but they look like they’re going in the right direction right now.”
Asked about possible fourth shots for Americans, Fauci said it was too early to know the durability of protection from the initial round of boosters. On Friday, data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that Pfizer and Moderna vaccine boosters were keeping infected Americans who had all three doses out of hospitals.
Fauci also said that children wearing masks at school helped limit spread of COVID-19, as the Biden administration has urged schools to stay open for in-person instruction.