At the White House COVID-19 response team briefing Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci responded to a question whether the hypercontagious Omicron variant’s lower rate of severe disease is a sign that the pandemic is nearing an end. Fauci called the assumption “dangerous business.” “You can’t count on anything when you’re dealing with a virus that has fooled us so many times before,” he said.
- Dr. Fauci, I wonder if you could address this idea that somehow omicron is a blessing in disguise. A South Korean health official said omicron could be viewed as a signal of this pandemic nearing its end if it has proven to be more contagious but less deadly. And I'm wondering in the context of the data that you presented from South Africa today, what is your view of that?
ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, I think that's a supposition that might-- I would hate to say a blessing in disguise. I never thought of a virus ever that can infect and kill people to be a blessing in any way. But if you're talking about would it be preferable to have omicron be totally pervasive and be relatively low degree of severity, yes, obviously that would be preferable. But it's dangerous business to be able to rely on what you perceive as a lower degree of severity.
Having said that, it is conceivable, Cheryl, that if omicron takes over, and you get a good immune response to omicron, and you do not wind up getting severity as much as with delta that we could wind up with a virus that's pervasive that does not cause severity and that people will get enough immune response to that you would then wind up having a lesser degree of morbidity and mortality. That is conceivable, but you don't want to count on it. You can't count on anything when you're dealing with a virus that has fooled us so many times before.