The top pandemic expert in the US, Dr Anthony Fauci, says that while the current surge in Omicron cases is unprecedented, recent developments in South Africa offer hope. He says the peak for the US may be just weeks away, but acknowledges that what’s happening now is, “almost a vertical increase”.
“We are definitely in the middle of a very severe surge and uptick in cases.”
The highly-contagious Omicron variant is spreading rapidly around the world, with the US reporting over 440,000 new infections on Friday. According to an AFP report, this is nearly 200,000 more than during a February 2021 peak.
However, Fauci says developments in South Africa give cause for some optimism. Omicron was first detected in South Africa last November, when it both peaked and subsided quickly. Fauci says there is increasing evidence that the variant results in milder illness, adding that US hospitalisations and deaths have been much lower in the last few weeks than during earlier waves.
Meanwhile, US officials have decided to keep schools open as children return today after the year-end holidays. Fauci agrees that this is the right move, but has once more begged parents to get their children vaccinated and have them wear masks and get tested if necessary.
“I think all those things put together, it’s safe enough to get those kids back to school, balanced against the deleterious effects of keeping them out.”
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona agrees and says that while the return to classrooms will be difficult, it’s got to be done.
“I do think there will be bumps in the road, especially tomorrow. So, we are going to roll up our sleeves, all hands on deck, let’s keep our children in the classroom. That should be our default thinking.”