Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US expert on infectious disease, has urged Americans to disinvite unvaccinated people from Christmas gatherings as the fast-spreading COVID-19 Omicron variant fuels a surge in infections nationwide.
‘We’re dealing with a serious enough situation now that if there’s an unvaccinated person, I would say, ‘I’m very sorry, but not this time. Maybe another time when this is all over,” said Fauci in an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday night.
The warning comes as Omicron now accounts for 73 percent of new cases in the US and pushes Europe to the brink of fresh lockdowns, with Wales the latest to announce harsh new restrictions set to kick in on Boxing Day, a British holiday celebrated the day after Christmas.
New York, Georgia and Texas are all seeing major surges in new COVID cases, which are up more than 100 percent in the past two weeks in those states.
Hawaii now leads the nation with daily new cases up 557 percent in the past two weeks followed by Florida at 371 percent.
The nation is currently averaging 148,384 new cases daily over the past week, a 23 percent increase from two weeks ago. Confirmed Omicron cases increased by 19 percent day-over-day, up to 1,781 as of Wednesday morning from 1,485 on Tuesday, but that number represents only the tiny fraction of infections that are DNA sequenced.
Deaths have stabilized, with America averaging around 1,300 deaths per day – a steady figure for the past week and down slightly from two weeks ago. Encouraging new data from a leaked British study suggests that Omicron infections are less severe than prior variants.
On Tuesday, the US recorded 172,072 new cases – down from 253,954 on Monday – and 2093 deaths in a single day. The US recorded 1,513 deaths the day earlier. Since the start of the pandemic, the US has recorded 51.2 million COVID-19 cases and 810,045 deaths.
Meanwhile, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky appeared to contradict President Joe Biden by insisting that the current surge in cases was expected, after Biden said on Tuesday that ‘the Omicron virus spread even more rapidly than anybody thought.’
‘We expected this, because we have seen the doubling times of this virus in other countries have been really rapid and that’s what we’re seeing here in the United States,’ Walensky insisted in an interview with the Today Show on Wednesday.
Pressed on criticism that the Biden administration failed to secure enough at-home test kits as Americans struggle to find them, Walensky insisted that resources were being devoted to surge testing capacity.
‘This has come on quickly. We’ve learned about Omicron just prior to Thanksgiving. The administration is doing a lot with regard to testing and we recognize we have more work to do,’ she said.
In the US outbreaks have forced a wave of disruptions, with holiday parties cancelled, the NHL suspending games through Christmas and withdrawing from the Winter Olympics, and Fox cancelling its New Year’s Eve telecast from Times Square.
Nevertheless many Americans are forging ahead with Christmas plans. Since Thursday, more than 12.5 million Americans have traveled by airplane, more than double last year’s figure for the same period and approaching pre-pandemic levels, according to TSA screening data.