WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — The COVID-19 omicron variant is “just raging around the world,” the White House’s top medical adviser said Sunday as President Joe Biden prepares to issue “a stark warning of what the winter will look like” for unvaccinated Americans.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “the real problem” for the U.S. hospital system is that “we have so many people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not yet been vaccinated.”
Biden’s optimism about a cold winter caused by coronavirus infection is in stark contrast to his prediction of it 10 months back. CNNThe country’s essentially normal status would be restored by Christmas time, according to a town hall. Biden is careful to not make promises, but confidence in America has been battered due to an unrelenting tide of COVID-19 variations and mutations that has left many Americans feeling dispirited, emotionally exhausted and anxious about possible infections.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tried to defend the president’s earlier promise in a separate interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“The idea about hoping and having an aspiration to be independent of the virus after a period of time is understandable and reasonable,” Fauci said. “But the one thing that we know from, now, almost two years’ experience with this virus is that it is really very unpredictable.”
There is a risk that increasing infections will exacerbate the supply chain problems facing the United States, and could fuel inflation. Gov. Jared Polis, D-Colo said Biden should stop talking about vaccination as two shots and a booster and, instead call it “three doses” that are needed to maximize protection.
“But the one thing that we know from, now, almost two years’ experience with this virus is that it is really very unpredictable.”
Polis pointed out that inflation is at an almost four-decade peak. Biden, in his Tuesday remarks about the micron variant, said that he needed to demonstrate to the country that he was addressing this particular problem.
“We can do very concrete things that actually reduce the costs for Americans,” Polis said on NBC, noting that Colorado is cutting vehicle registration fees and making it free to register a new business.
With the increase in holiday travel, there will be a number of new infections. Fauci indicated that people who are vaccinated have received a booster and should continue to wear masks at airports.
Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary, tweeted that Biden will speak on Tuesday about the state of COVID-19 fighting and the need for government assistance to communities. She also said he will be “issuing a stark warning of what the winter will look like for Americans that choose to remain unvaccinated.”
Fauci was asked on CNN whether he expected record numbers of cases — and what about hospitalizations and deaths. “Yes, well, unfortunately. I think that that is going to happen,” he said.
Fauci told NBC the president would again urge people to get the booster shot, highlight increased availability of testing, discuss “surge teams” for besieged hospitals and explain how important it is to provide vaccines for the rest of the world.
“The one thing that’s very clear, and there’s no doubt about this, is its extraordinary capability of spreading, its transmissibility capability. It is just, you know, raging through the world, really,” Fauci said. “And if you look even here in the United States, you have some regions that start off with a few percent of the isolates that are positive, now going up to 30%, 40%, and some places 50%.”
Psaki’s announcement Saturday on Twitter came after Vice President Kamala Harris said in a Los Angeles Times interview that the Biden administration “didn’t see delta coming. I think most scientists did not — upon whose advice and direction we have relied — didn’t see delta coming.” She added: “We didn’t see omicron coming. And that’s the nature of what this, this awful virus has been, which as it turns out, has mutations and variants.”
The vice president’s words raised doubts as to the administration’s strategy for addressing the pandemic. Biden declared the United States’ independence from the virus during a White House celebration marking progress in vaccinations within the United States. However, the global nature and spread of the pandemic means that it could continue to evolve while others around the globe wait for their immunizations.
Fauci told NBC he saw the variants coming and he thought Harris’ statement “was taken a bit out of context,” adding he believed she was referring to “the extraordinary number of mutations … particularly with omicron. No one had expected it that much but we were well prepared and expected that we were going to see variants.”