A growing chorus of voices are predicting that most people living in the U.S. are going to contract COVID-19, as the omicron variant is so much more infectious than earlier strains.
Among those voices is that of Janet Woodcock, the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration:
“‘I think it’s hard to process what’s actually happening right now, which is most people are going to get COVID.’”
Woodcock made that comment while testifying before the Senate Health Committee earlier this week on the U.S. handling of the pandemic along with other health officials. She added that the reality of mass infection makes it crucial that hospitals are not overwhelmed and essential services not disrupted.
“What we need to do is make sure the hospitals can still function, transportation, you know, other essential services are not disrupted while this happens,” she said. “I think after that will be a good time to reassess how we’re approaching this pandemic.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, echoed the sentiment hours after Woodcock’s testimony. Fauci told the think tank the Centers for Strategic and International Studies that most Americans are likely to get COVID but that those who are vaccinated and have had a booster shot are less likely to face either hospitalization or death.
“Omicron, with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility, will ultimately find just about everybody,” Fauci said.
Omicron has already caused many breakthrough cases in the vaccinated and has a high rate of reinfecting people who already had COVID. However, it’s the unvaccinated who will “get the brunt of the severe aspect of this,” Fauci said.
Another doctor, Dr. Bob Wachter, from the UCSF Department of Medicine, noted the subtle distinction between being exposed to COVID and getting it, and said the former supports the need to comply with protective measures, while the latter does not.
The World Health Organization said earlier this week that more than half of Europeans could be infected with omicron in the next two months, if current infection rates continue. Regional director Hans Kluge warned that the omicron variant represents a “new west-to-east tidal wave” sweeping the European region, AFP reported.
The WHO also said that studies continue to signal that omicron is less lethal than earlier variants of the coronavirus. But to illustrate how fast it spreads, the WHO said there were 15 million new COVID cases in the week through Jan. 9 across the world, a big increase from the week earlier.
There were 145,005 Americans in the hospital with COVID-19 on Wednesday, according to a New York Times tracker, up 82% from two weeks ago and the highest number since the start of the pandemic.
New cases are averaging 781,203 a day, up 159% from two weeks ago, and deaths, which lag cases and hospitalizations, are now climbing, up 51% from two weeks ago at 1,827 a day.
Scientists have also said there are signs that the current wave is nearing a peak and point to data from the United Kingdom showing case numbers dropping in certain areas of the U.S., including Washington, D.C., that have been recent hot spots.