January 23, 2022

Dr. Anthony Fauci said he's "as confident as you can be" that most states in the U.S. will have reached their peak in Omicron cases by mid-February. He didn't minimize the fact that we're still going to see a lot of pain and suffering along the way, particularly in areas where there are still very low vaccination rates.

RADDATZ: But you said there that, by mid-February, most states may reach a peak. Are you still confident about that?

FAUCI: You know, I think as confident as you can be. You never want to be overconfident when you're dealing with this virus, Martha, because it has certainly surprised us in the past.

But, if you look at the patterns that we have seen in South Africa, in the U.K., and in Israel, and that, as you mentioned just a moment ago, in the Northeast and New England and Upper Midwest states, they have peaked and starting to come down rather sharply -- there are still some states in the Southern states and Western states that continue to go up.

But if the pattern follows the trend that we're seeing in other places, such as the Northeast, I believe that you will start to see a turnaround throughout the entire country. Since it's a large country and a great deal of variation in the degree of vaccinations that we have in one region compared to another, ultimately, they're all going to go in the same direction.

There may be a bit more pain and suffering with hospitalizations in those areas of the country that have not been fully vaccinated or have not gotten boosters. But we do know -- and that -- these are the recent data that have come out from the CDC -- that, even with Omicron, boosting makes a major, major difference in protecting you from hospitalization and severe outcomes.

So things are looking good. We don't want to get overconfident. But they look like they're going in the right direction right now.

The Lancet medical journal made a similar prediction this week, saying COVID-19 will continue, but the end of the pandemic is near:

I use the term pandemic to refer to the extraordinary societal efforts over the past 2 years to respond to a new pathogen that have changed how individuals live their lives and how policy responses have developed in governments around the world. These efforts have saved countless lives globally. New SARS-CoV-2 variants will surely emerge and some may be more severe than omicron. Immunity, whether infection or vaccination derived, will wane, creating opportunities for continued SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Given seasonality, countries should expect increased potential transmission in winter months.

The impacts of future SARS-CoV-2 transmission on health, however, will be less because of broad previous exposure to the virus, regularly adapted vaccines to new antigens or variants, the advent of antivirals, and the knowledge that the vulnerable can protect themselves during future waves when needed by using high-quality masks and physical distancing. COVID-19 will become another recurrent disease that health systems and societies will have to manage.

For example, the death toll from omicron seems to be similar in most countries to the level of a bad influenza season in northern hemisphere countries. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the worse influenza season during the past decade in 2017–18 caused about 52 000 influenza deaths with a likely peak of more than 1500 deaths per day.11

The era of extraordinary measures by government and societies to control SARS-CoV-2 transmission will be over. After the omicron wave, COVID-19 will return but the pandemic will not.

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