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Dr. Fauci Said Do This Now to Protect Against the New Variant

Follow his advice and you'll have a better chance at avoiding Omicron.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

The new coronavirus mutation—called Omicron—is stoking fear and confusion, as experts have urged caution but admit it's still too early to tell how dangerous it is. Should you be masking up more often? Changing your holiday travel plans? To help you stay your safest, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke on MSNBC with Craig Melvin. Read on for five life-saving pieces of advice—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Dr. Fauci Said Here's What We Need to Learn About Omicron

Scientist working in the laboratory
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Why be concerned but not panic? "We don't have enough information to be talking about dire situations," said Dr. Fauci. "There are some concerning aspects about what the molecular profile of the virus is and what's going on in Southern Africa, but we really need to have to fill in the gaps. For example, how transmissible will it be? And what is the level of transmissibility? Importantly, will it evade the protection, for example, of monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, or importantly, the antibodies that are induced by vaccination? It may, it likely will have an impact on that. If you look at the profile of the mutations, the question is what kind of an impact and how much of an impact would it have on protection that's induced by vaccination. And the only way to know that is to do what we're doing, namely to get the virus and put it in a form where you can ask, say the antibodies that are induced by the currently used vaccines and find out the degree to which they neutralize or essentially immobilize as it were these viruses."

2

Dr. Fauci Said It'll Take Some Time to Know if the Mutation is Dangerous

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Understanding how dangerous Omicron is—"that's going to take a little time likely we'll be getting some information probably within the next week or two, and then further information a little bit later than that. So there's a lot of things we don't know. Also, we don't know anything about the severity of this infection. I mean, we know it's spreading pretty well and pretty robustly in Southern Africa, particularly in South Africa where they have the capability of monitoring it well, but we don't know at all at this point, though, we're getting some inkling as to what, whether it's severe or not. It could be highly transmissible, but not severe, or it could be any of the combination of the above. So it's really a matter of getting the scientific information. Yeah. Not jumping to any conclusions and to follow the science."

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3

Dr. Fauci Said Omicron May Already Be in America

Healthcare worker with protective equipment performs coronavirus swab on a woman.
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"Well, the CDC does surveillance on isolates throughout the country. And this is one, fortunately that the test that we use, it's pretty easy to pick it up. So given the surveillance system that the CDC has going right now, we should pick it up. When it comes here, it might already be here, certainly not in large amounts, but it may already be here. And you're going to hear about that. The CDC will make the announcement, that that's the case. As soon as they get the information, they will be very transparent about it," said Dr. Fauci.

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4

Dr. Fauci Said This is the Best Tool to Keep You Safe

The female doctor syringe injection to the young patient put on a mask in the hospital
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"We know from experience that when you have variants, like the Delta variant, which is the variant that it's dominated the situation throughout the world, and certainly in the United States, even though the vaccines that we are giving to people are directed against the original Wuhan strain, if you get the level of antibodies high enough, it cross protects against variants like Delta," said Dr. Fauci. "So what we're trying to do when we say, A, if you're un-vaccinated get vaccinated B, if you are vaccinated, get boosted, plus we want to get the level of those antibodies as high as you possibly can. And even though they may get some diminution in their effect on this new virus, you still, almost certainly, you're going to get some degree of protection, particularly against severe disease. We don't know what the level of that protection would be, but if history tells us anything regarding other variants, we will at least get some degree of protection. And that's the reason why the president very appropriately said yesterday, go get vaccinated. And if you are vaccinated, go get boosted. When we find out the degree of protection by the antibodies that are induced by vaccine, we will know better what the prediction will be, how we can prognosticate as to what's going on. But we're not going to know that for a while, as I said, likely about two weeks."

He did add a caveat: "It is unclear" if the vaccines offer enough protection against Omicron. "But from historical experience that we have is that when you get levels of antibody high enough, for example, with the booster, we have had protection against other variants. So what I'm saying, it is likely that even though that protection might be diminished, that if you get your levels high enough, particularly with the booster, you will get some degree of protection, maybe a lot. We don't know, but at least some degree of protection, particularly against severe disease. That's what we know right now. If things change, we will absolutely tell you about it."

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5

Dr. Fauci Said This About Your Travel Plans

smiling man packing clothes into travel bag L
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"I would not change any plans, but that doesn't mean you should be cavalier about it. People should try and get vaccinated if they're not vaccinated and get a boost, as soon as you can, if you're eligible within the timeframe of getting the boost. And when you do travel, be prudent, for example, many people will be flying when you're on a plane, you have to wear a mask, make sure when you're in the airport in a crowded session, in a place for the food court. So whenever in the airport, keep your mask on when you're in an indoor congregate setting, right?" So mask up in those situations, get vaccinated or boosted, 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.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more
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