Vaccinations and booster shots continue to be the best defense against the coronavirus for the U.S., even with the spread of the new omicron variant, which now has been reported in at least 15 states, health officials said Sunday.
Vaccines developed to fight the original COVID-19 strain have offered good protection against the delta variant, the dominant strain in the U.S., said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He believes they will help with omicron, especially for those who also get a booster shot.
“If you get boosted … we feel certain that there will be some degree and maybe a considerable degree of protection against the omicron variant if in fact it starts to take hold in a dominant way in this country,” Fauci told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
When Tapper pointed out that hospitalizations are not increasing rapidly in South Africa, where omicron was first reported last month, despite what appears to be a high degree of transmissibility, Fauci offered tempered optimism.
“It’s too early to really make any definitive statements about it,” he said. “Thus far it does not look like a great degree of severity to it, but we’ve really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or really doesn’t cause any severe illness comparable to delta.”
While omicron has rightfully raised concerns, the delta variant, accounting for 99.9% of the 90,000 to 100,000 cases reported each day in the U.S., remains the main strain to contend with, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
To fight all forms of COVID, she recommended that people get vaccinations and boosters and wear masks in public indoor settings in the 80% of counties where there is high or substantial transmission of the disease.
“We have so many more tools now than we did a year ago,” said Walensky, who favors mask recommendations over a national mandate. “We know so many things that work against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, regardless of the variant that we’ve seen before.”
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