Fauci Doesn’t Expect Lockdowns; Hospitals Likely Stressed
(Bloomberg) -- An effective shutdown of the U.S. likely won’t be necessary as Covid-19 surges again, though hospitals will be tested by the expected rush of cases from the omicron variant, according to President Biden’s top medical adviser.
“I don’t foresee the kind of lockdowns that we’ve seen before but I certainly see the potential for stress on our hospital system,” Anthony Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
He said the omicron variant has “an extraordinary capacity of transmitting efficiently from person to person.” Omicron is spreading rapidly in Europe, with the Netherlands announcing a new lockdown on Saturday and the U.K. weighing stricter measures.
In the U.S., cases have been reported in most states, pushing infections to pandemic-high records in some, including New York.
Hospitalizations for Covid-19 in the U.S. are rising, as is intensive care use. Still, South Africa, undergoing a surge in omicron, has reported relatively mild cases and fewer hospitalizations than in previous viral waves.
With colder weather and holiday travel and gatherings, stresses on the medical system in the U.S. will be particularly acute in regions of the country with low levels of vaccination, Fauci said in a separate interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” He urged the public to get vaccines and boosters, noting that about 50 million people are eligible to get shots and haven’t.
Fauci acknowledged in both interviews that access to testing has been a problem, with shortages causing long waits and lines in many parts of the U.S.
“We’ve got to do better,” he said on CNN. He added on ABC that the government will invest billions of dollars to have between 200 and 500 million tests available a month, many of them free.
He said on CNN that while the administration had envisioned variants would arise, the extent of mutations of omicron wasn’t anticipated.
“It seems to be overtaking all the other variants including delta, with a doubling time of about two to three days,” he said on ABC. “This is really something to be reckoned with.”
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