Despite warnings of a new and more virulent strain of COVID on the horizon, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he believes that the omicron variant should peak in February and then be all but gone.
According to an NBC News analysis of Covid-19 case number data, nearly two dozen states, plus two territories and Washington D.C., omicron cases are no longer surging. Case numbers nationwide declined to 706,000 average cases per day from a peak of 825,000 on Jan. 15. Five days later, average hospitalizations peaked at nearly 160,000, according to an NBC News analysis of Department of Health and Human Services data. Experts say hospitalization trends lag case trends by a few days.
These new numbers prompted Fauci to say he feels that the omicron wave, already in a retreat nationwide, will tail off in “most” states by mid-February.
“As we get into February … it is very likely that most of the states in the country will have turned around with their peak and are starting to come down with regard to cases and then obviously hospitalizations,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Although nationwide numbers may be falling, experts say the prevalence of omicron remains serious. Cases and hospitalizations are still near pandemic-record levels. Hospitalizations are still rising in a majority of states.
New Variant May Be More Transmissible That Omicron
Meanwhile, the WHO has identified a new variant that they are calling a sub-variant of omicron. Known as BA.2, it is also being referred to as “stealth omicron.” The WHO is reporting cases of BA.2 in more than 40 countries, including the US, India, Germany, and Australia.
BA.2 is one of at least four descendants of omicron that has been detected, and it has already become the dominant form of the virus in Denmark.
The World Health Organization notes that BA.2 “is increasing in many countries” amid concerns it could be even more infectious than the initial Omicron strain, BA.1.
“Investigations into the characteristics of BA.2, including immune escape properties and virulence, should be prioritized independently (and comparatively) to BA.1,” the group said.
Still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told the Washington Post that “it remains a very low proportion of circulating viruses in the United States and globally.”
And even where it has spread widely, it appears to share the weakened threat of its sibling strain.
“We are not so concerned,” Danish virologist Anders Fomsgaard told the Washington Post.