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- American immunologist and head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, announced yesterday that the first case of Omicron—the new COVID variant—has been identified in California. "The individual was fully vaccinated and experienced mild symptoms, which are improving at this point," he said at a press conference. "So this is the first confirmed case of COVID-19 caused by the Omnicon variant detected in the United States." How can you stay safe? And what does the "endgame" of all this look like? Read on for 7 essential points he made—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Dr. Fauci Said You Can't Draw Conclusions From One Case
"Just because one vaccinated person had mild symptoms—This is what we call in medicine 'N equals one,' which means that you really can take anything away from a single patient. We feel good that this patient not only had mild symptoms, but actually the symptoms appear to be improving. But as we've said, there's a lot of information that is now evolving out of countries like South Africa that have a much larger number of individuals, not only who are confirmed, but individuals who are probables, which means they are going to have a lot of experience, which we will benefit from here as the weeks go by. Some of you have heard me say that in a matter of two weeks or two and a half, three weeks, we'll know a lot about transmissibility about whether or not it essentially eludes some of the protection from things like monoclonal antibodies, whether or not the disease itself in general is going to be severe. And what is the difference in an individual who's been vaccinated versus unvaccinated booster versus not boosted. We're going to get that information. So again, I appreciate your question about one individual, but we're going to get a lot more information."
Dr. Fauci Said Here's How to Best Stay Safe Against Omicron
"We knew that it was just a matter of time before the first case of Omicron would be detected in the United States," said Dr. Fauci. "And as I've been saying it in my colleagues on the medical team and others have been saying, we know what we need to do to protect people: Get vaccinated if you're not already vaccinated. Get boosted if you've been vaccinated for more than six months with an mRNA or two months with J&J and all the other things we've been talking about—getting your children vaccinated, masking in indoor congregate settings, et cetera—" do those things ASAP.
Dr. Fauci Said Boosting Yourself is So, So Important
"I think what's happening now is another example of why it's important for people to get vaccinated, who've not been vaccinated," said Dr. Fauci, "but also boosting—boosting is really very important because the data that we get on boosting, if you look at the level, for example, of an antibody, a neutralizing antibody peak following the second dose of a two dose mRNA, it's like at this level, if you look at the peak, following the third shot boost, it goes way up here and people ask why is that important? Because our experience with variants such as the Delta variant is that even though the vaccine isn't specifically targeted to the Delta variant, when you get a high enough level of an immune response, you get spillover protection, even against a variant that the vaccine wasn't specifically directed at. And that's the reason why we feel, even though we don't have a lot of data on it, there's every reason to believe that that kind of increase that you get with the boost would be helpful, at least in preventing severe disease of a variant like Omicron."
Dr. Fauci Said This Makes Omicron Special
"We don't have enough information right now, as you know, and we've said this, that the profile of the molecular profile of the kinds of mutations that you see would suggest a, that it might be more transmissible and that it might allude some of the protection of vaccines, but we don't know that now we don't know what the constellation of mutations are actually going to be," said Dr. Fauci. "We have to be prepared that there's going to be a diminution in protection, which is the reason why I keep getting back over and over again and say why it's so important to get boosted. But I think any declaration of what will or will not happen with this variant, it's too early to say. And I think we need to be careful because I know you're going to be reading a lot of tweets and a lot of comments about this. We're really very early in the process."
Dr. Fauci Said Letting Omicron Spread is "Something Really Dangerous"
One reporter said of Omicron: "I hope this just proves more transmissible, but less virulent, than Delta. Would there be any public health benefit to furthering its spread by lifting travel restrictions, for example? So out-compete the Delta variant?" You're "talking about something really dangerous," said Fauci. "You're talking about let a lot of people get infected to see if in fact you could protect them. That's something that I think almost all infectious disease, people with any knowledge about infectious disease would not say that's a good idea."
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Dr. Fauci Said Here's How to Stay Safe Over the Holidays
"The advice is what I follow myself," said Dr. Fauci about the holidays. "And what I tell people to do is: get vaccinated. Number one, if you need, if you're eligible for boost, get boosted and in a situation with the holiday season, indoor-type settings with family that you know is vaccinated. People tha you can feel safe with not wearing a mask and having a dinner or having a reception, or when you are in a public congregate setting in which you do not know the status of the vaccination of the people involved. It is very prudent to wear a mask. And that's what I do." He added: "Sure when you're eating and when you're drinking, take the mask down. But to the extent possible keeping on when you're in an indoor congregate setting."
Dr. Fauci Says He Thinks This Will Be the Endgame
"I mean, the end game, which we hope, and I think, will occur is that as we get more people vaccinated, not only in this country, but globally, we will see a situation where viruses will not have the opportunity—what they have right now is to essentially freely distribute and freely circulate in society, both domestic society and global society. The more protection you get with vaccines, the less likelihood the virus has to do that. The less likelihood of virus has to you take the less likely you're going to get a variant. So one of the things that we need to do about our long end gain is to do the things we've been saying every single day, not only for ourselves, but internationally, and we have done a lot and we'll continue to do a lot to get lower middle income countries vaccinated." He added: "I mean, there's no doubt that this will end, I promise you that this will end." Help it end by getting your vaccine or booster—and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.