Fauci Says US Could Face 'Fifth Wave' as Omicron Spreads

More cases are detected in several nations
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 28, 2021 12:10 PM CST
Fauci Says US Could Face a 'Fifth Wave' as Omicron Strain Spreads
People wait to get a dose of coronavirus vaccine Sunday at St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig, Germany.   (Sebastian Willnow/dpa via AP)

(Newser) – With nations around the world rushing to limit the spread of the latest coronavirus variant, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that the US has "the potential to go into a fifth wave" of the pandemic. The omicron strain, first detected in South Africa, has not been found in the US yet, but Fauci already said its presence wouldn't surprise him. It would arrive against a backdrop of already-increasing infections in the US and stalled vaccination rates. The infectious disease expert called the omicron mutations "troublesome," the Guardian reports. "The mutations strongly suggest that it's going to have an advantage in transmissibility and that it might evade immune protection," Fauci said.

That won't necessarily happen, Fauci said on NBC's Meet the Press, but the findings so far are "a strong indication that we really need to be prepared for that." He and other experts are scheduled to brief President Biden about the variant Sunday at the White House. Other developments include:
Infected passengers: At least 13 of the 61 people who tested positive after landing Friday in the Netherlands from South Africa have the omicron variant, health officials said Sunday. Tests are still being analyzed, so that number could rise, per the New York Times. The 13 are isolating.
The spread: Australia has two cases among travelers in Sydney who had come from South Africa, per CNN. Israel has seven possible but unconfirmed cases. Britain and Germany reported a third case each on Sunday. Denmark reported two cases Sunday, per Reuters.
Global warnings: As cases multiply, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the world is in a "race against time." Although no cases have been identified in France, its health minister didn't sugarcoat the situation. "It's probably a question of hours, let's be honest," Olivier Véran said Sunday.
Hopeful sign: A physician in South Africa said the omicron cases she's seen haven't been severe, per Reuters. "Most of them are seeing very, very mild symptoms, and none of them so far have admitted patients to surgeries," said Dr. Angelique Coetzee, who chairs the South African Medical Associaton. "We have been able to treat these patients conservatively at home."
NIH forecast: There are "good reasons to think it will probably be OK," Director Francis Collins said Sunday on CNN's State of the Union. But the virus is "shape-shifting itself," he said, and there won't be many answers for a few weeks. "I know, America, you're really tired of hearing these things," Collins said, "but the virus is not tired of us." (Read more omicron variant stories.)

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