Dr. Fauci: Data from preliminary studies show omicron is less severe than delta

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been serving as the White House chief medical advisor since the onset of the pandemic, said early data shows that the omicron variant of the coronavirus is less severe than the delta variant.

He added that animal studies have indicated lung infection from the variant is not as severe. Fauci still cautioned that hospitals could face stress through the extremely high number of new infections sweeping across the nation.

“Multiple sources of now-preliminary data indicate a decreased severity with omicron,” Fauci said to the public during a White House COVID-19 update. “However, we really do need more definitive assessment of severity with longer-term follow up here and in different countries.”

He later continued, “It was shown that the virus of omicron proliferates very well in the upper airway and bronchi, but actually very poorly in the lungs. While this does not definitely prove omicron is more mild, it is consistent with the variant transmitting very quickly but causing less severe lung infections.” 

Dr. Fauci cited a study conducted in Ontario, Canada which found that the risk of hospitalization or death was 65 percent lower among people infected with omicron when compared to those infected with delta. According to the study, the risk of admission to an intensive care unit or death from the omicron variant was 83 percent lower.

He additionally pointed to a study from South Africa that found roughly 5 percent of infections during the omicron surge resulted in hospitalization in comparison with 14 percent during delta. 

He still claimed, though, that even if omicron is truly less severe, the quick spread of the variant could result in a volume of cases so high that a large number of patients could still require hospital care.

“A certain portion of a large volume of cases no matter what are going to be severe,” he said. “So don’t take this as a signal that we can pull back from the recommendations.” Across the country, schools and businesses are shutting down once again due to the increase in new cases.




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