Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert and President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said Thursday that the newly discovered omicron variant will be the dominant strain of the coronavirus “very soon.”
The variant, he told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday, "has an extraordinary ability to transmit efficiently and spread."
"It has what we call a doubling time of about three days and if you do the math on that, if you have just a couple of percentage of the isolates being omicron, very soon it's going to be the dominant variant," Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, added.
Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data which shows that cases of the omicron variant are on the rise. For the week ending Dec. 4, the omicron variant accounted for less than 1% — 0.4% — of all new cases in the United States.
The next week, omicron cases jumped to account for nearly 3% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide. However, the delta variant still accounts for the vast majority of cases in the U.S. — nearly 97%.
“We've seen that in South Africa, we're seeing it in the U.K. and I'm absolutely certain that's what we're going to be seeing here relatively soon,” Dr. Fauci added, referencing recent spikes in those countries.
On Wednesday, the U.K. reported the country's highest single-day total since the pandemic began: 78,610 new coronavirus cases, an increase from 59,610 the day before – and topping the previous single-day high of 68,053, which was reported on Jan. 8.
On Thursday, the U.K. broke that record again with 88,376, an increase of almost 10,000 from the day before.
South Africa, where the omicron variant was first discovered, reported a record 26,976 cases on Wednesday, which is believed to be largely driven by the strain. The figure eclipses the previous record set back in July, when the delta variant drove an increase in cases.
On “GMA” Thursday, Dr. Fauci urged Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and urged those vaccinated to get a booster as soon as possible, but reiterated his comments from a White House COVID-19 briefing Wednesday that there is “no need for a variant-specific booster.”
"At this point, we don't believe you need an omicron-specific boost," Fauci said on Thursday. "We just need to get the boost with what you got originally for the primary vaccination."
With some colleges closing down early due to COVID spikes and the holidays approaching, Dr. Fauci said that hopefully vaccinations, masking and other CDC recommendations should help the country withstand the surge and prevent more closures.
"I hope that if we get enough people vaccinated and boosted and continue to abide by the recommendations of the CDC, for example, like masking when you are in an indoor congregate setting, I believe that we can get through this surge," he said.
"Obviously in the winter months, with indoor congregating with the holiday season, inevitably we are going to see even more cases than we're seeing now,"Dr. Fauci continued. "But if we handle it well and continue to push on the vaccinations, I hope by the time we get through the winter we'll be on a downslope as opposed to an upslope to handle it."
Dr. Fauci told "GMA" that with the holidays coming up, people can stay safe by wearing masks and getting vaccinated.
"If you and your family are vaccinated and boosted, hopefully, you should feel comfortable about having a holiday situation where you have dinners and gatherings in your own home with family and friends," he said. "But that will only be safe if people get vaccinated."