WASHINGTON >> A likely rise in U.S. COVID-19 cases probably won’t amount to a full-scale surge or prompt a renewal of widespread restrictions, one of President Joe Biden’s top advisers said.
“The bottom line is we likely will see an uptick in cases, as we’ve seen in the European countries, particularly the U.K.,” Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, said on ABC’s “This Week” today. “Hopefully we won’t see a surge. I don’t think we will.”
The BA.2 subvariant of omicron is driving up cases in Europe and Asia, notably in Hong Kong, and now accounts for about 30% of infections in the U.S, where indoor-mask and vaccine requirements have largely been rolled back.
While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has argued that the U.S. needs to be prepared to resume measures such as requiring masks in indoor public spaces, Fauci said, “right now, at this point, I don’t see that.”
U.S. cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to decline. BA.2 is about 50% more transmissible than the original strain of omicron, but it doesn’t cause more severe illness or evade immunity from vaccinations or an earlier infection, Fauci said.
Fauci and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy urged Congress to pass a stalled package of new COVID-19 relief. The White House has sought $22.5 billion in funding, warning that it will soon have to wind down programs and can’t buy more therapeutic treatments.
“As much work as we’ve done in the last two years to get the right tools, we’ve got to continue funding them and supporting them so they’re available to people across the country,” Murthy said on “Fox News Sunday.” “That’s why Congress moving to provide that funding is so critical.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell argued that too much money allocated for COVID-19 programs has yet to be spent.
“They ought to reprogram some of this massive amount that was spent last year that’s not out the door yet,” the Kentucky Republican said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” today.
Fauci, 81, tamped down speculation that he might be ready to retire. Last week, he told ABC: “I can’t stay at this job forever.”
“I want to make sure we’re really out of this before I really seriously consider doing anything different,” he said today. “We’re still in this. We have a way to go. I think we are clearly going in the right direction. I hope we stay that way.”