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Dr. Fauci Just Gave This Essential Omicron Update

Here's what he said about masking.

COVID safety precautions—like the federal mask mandate on transportation—have recently been relaxed, and Americans are heading back out to social engagements, restaurants and cultural events, often mask-free. At the same time, cases of BA.2 are heading upward. What does this mean for the next weeks and months of the pandemic? In a new interview with NYC radio station 1010WINS, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease expert, offered some important updates on the state of COVID in the U.S. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Masking Is Now a Personal Choice

Happy woman removing mask from face outdoors.

Fauci was asked about the recent appeals court ruling that struck down federal mask mandates on transportation like planes. "The court has ruled from a legal standpoint, we really cannot reinstitute a mandate right now," he said, adding that he thinks it's appropriate to recommend that people wear masks on public transportation and other enclosed spaces. People who are at risk (like the immunocompromised) or who are living with a vulnerable person may want to continue masking. "It really will have to be a personal choice right now because of the ruling of the court," he said. 


A Surge Is Likely

Patient arriving at medical clinic and being called by the doctor using face mask.

Although he said COVID case numbers are currently "very low," Fauci added, "I believe we're going to see some surging. We're seeing it throughout the country, including in New York. But one of the things we're hoping for, because we've seen it in other countries and we're seeing it in some of the cities that all the cases are going up, there's not a concomitant increase in hospitalizations or intensive care unit bed usage."


"We Don't Know For Sure"

Female Lab Research Worker Wearing PPE Holding Test Tube Labelled BA.2

"We don't know for sure" if the highly contagious BA.2 variant will mean a return to restrictions in the coming weeks and months, Fauci said. "We've been through this now multiple times, but it is unclear. I doubt that there are going to be serious restrictions because of what the patterns that we have seen in other countries."

For example: In the UK, BA.2 cases peaked at record levels but without a corresponding increase in hospitalizations; they've since declined sharply without additional restrictions being implemented. Fauci said it was "likely" that would be the case in the U.S. "I underscore 'likely' because we've got to keep an open mind and respond according to what the dynamics of the outbreak is," he added. "It looks like we're going to be in a situation where we won't see a major increase in hospitalizations, but we don't know that right now. We have to follow this very carefully over the next few weeks to see if we have a turnaround and the cases start coming down again." 


On the Likelihood of Another Variant

Biotechnology scientist in ppe suit researching DNA in laboratory using microscope. team examining virus evolution using high tech for scientific research of vaccine development against covid19

Asked if Americans should be worried about another COVID variant, Fauci was pragmatic. "We don't want us to be always frightened, but on the other hand, we have to be realistic," he said. "It is conceivable that we will have another variant that would elude protection. The reason I say that is that it is happened before. So you always have to be aware of and be able to respond."


The Good News

Woman taking COVID test.

"The good news about all of this is now we have so many things that we didn't have a year ago," said Fauci. "We are much, much better prepared now to respond to another variant than we were one year ago, with regard to vaccines, with regard to antivirals, with regard to testing, with regard to so many other things that would be important in our ability to respond appropriately to another variant. So yes, it is conceivable that will get another variant, but we're much better capable right now to respond to that."


How to Stay Safe Out There

Doctor had just vaccinated a young female patient in the hospital.

Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
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