Dr. Fauci Just Said Here's What's Next
With COVID cases rising overseas thanks to the highly contagious subvariant BA.2, at the same time that cases have dropped and restrictions have been relaxed in the U.S., many of us are wondering: What's next for the COVID pandemic here. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease expert, made some predictions on This Week With George Stephanopolous Sunday. 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.
BA.2 Is This Much More Contagious
BA.2 "has a degree of transmission advantage over the original," said Fauci, "but not multifold advantage." The subvariant seems to be "about 50 to 60% or so more transmissible, which means ultimately over time, it might take over as the dominant variant." Throughout the world, BA.2 accounts for about 80 to 85% of cases, he noted; in the U.S., that number is about 30%.
BA.2, however, does not appear to cause more severe illness. "When you look at the cases, they do not appear to be any more severe, and they do not appear to evade immune responses either from vaccines or prior infection," said Fauci.
Omicron Uptick, But Not a Surge, Likely in U.S.
"The bottom line is we likely will see an uptick in cases, as we've seen in the European countries, particularly the UK," said Fauci. There, restrictions on protective measures like indoor masking happened alongside the BA.2 surge, and there has been some waning of immunity from vaccines. "Hopefully we won't see a surge," said Fauci. "I don't think we will."
Return to Restrictions Unlikely
Fauci was asked if it was likely that the recent relaxation of restrictions in the U.S. will be reversed. "At this point, I don't see that," he said. "But you always have to have the flexibility. Remember when the CDC came out with the modification of their metrics, which would lead to the guidelines of what regions or counties in the country should have masking indoors. They made it very clear that … if we do see a significant surge, particularly one that might result in increased hospitalizations, we have to be prepared to pivot and perhaps reinstitute some of those restrictions."
The Best Way to Protect Against BA.2
Fauci said vaccination was the best hope of avoiding another COVID surge. "We only still have about 65% of our population that has been vaccinated," he said. "And of those who are eligible for a booster only about 50% of them have been boosted."
It's also important that Congress pass funding to increase the supply of antiviral medications and rapid tests, Fauci said. "We just can't stand still, particularly as we appear to be in somewhat of a loan, the cases where CA cases continue to come down, deaths continue to come down in hospitalizations. That's no time at all to declare victory because this virus has fooled us before. And we really need to be prepared for the possibility that we might get another variant. And we don't wanna be caught flatfooted on that.
How to Stay Safe Out There
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.