WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief adviser to the White House on the coronavirus response, says early data appears to show that the omicron variant does not make people more sick, though he cautioned that scientists need more data before they reach any firm conclusions.
He said omicron is cause for concern but not panic.
“Thus far, the signals are a bit encouraging regarding the severity,” Fauci told CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday.
He said that while omicron is spreading rapidly — it has now been identified in 14 states — it does not appear to be resulting in high levels of hospitalizations.
“But again, we’ve got to hold judgment until we get more experience” with omicron, Fauci qualified.
Still, with much unknown and the delta variant continuing to rage across the country, Fauci and other federal health officials are urging people to take mitigation precautions and get vaccinated.
“Boosters are going to be really critical in addressing whether or not we’re going to be able to handle this,” Fauci said.
Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, encouraged Americans to continue wearing masks.
“If you’re indoors, you should be wearing a mask with other people,” Collins said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
He also called on people to get tested for the virus before gathering for holiday celebrations.
“There are now eight home tests that are out there,” Collins said. “Go to your pharmacy, you’ll see them on the shelf. … If you get one of these home tests, you can file with your insurance companies and get reimbursed for it.”
If it’s not covered under your plan, he said, the federal government is distributing 50 million tests to populations in need.
The delta variant is still the nation’s biggest threat. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said it accounts for 99.9% of all cases in the U.S. and is driving up hospitalizations and deaths.