(The Hill) — Infectious disease expert and White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that “just about everybody” will eventually be infected with the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
“Omicron, with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility, will ultimately find just about everybody,” Fauci told the Center for Strategic and International Studies during a “fireside chat.”
“Those who have been vaccinated and vaccinated and boosted would get exposed. Some, maybe a lot of them, will get infected but will very likely, with some exceptions, do reasonably well in the sense of not having hospitalization and death,” he added.
The omicron variant was discovered in November and has since caused a surge in cases around the world, prompting some countries, states and cities to put restrictions back in place.
Omicron is the most transmissible variant to appear so far, but it seems to cause fewer hospitalizations and deaths than previous mutations of the virus.
Fauci’s comment follows a similar remark Janet Woodcock, acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, made at a Senate hearing Tuesday, when she said “it’s hard to process what’s actually happening right now, which is most people are going to get COVID.”
Fauci defended Woodcock’s remarks in a COVID-19 briefing Wednesday saying Woodcock did not mean to imply “most of us were ultimately going to get sick with omicron.”
“Remember, she was talking about the data that we all showed about the extraordinary effect and dichotomy between people who get omicron who get vaccinated and boosted how well they are protected against hospitalization, and death,” Fauci said.
“What she was referring to is that virtually everybody is going to wind up getting exposed and likely get infected but if you’re vaccinated and if you’re boosting, the chances of getting sick have very, very low,” he added.
Although individuals who are vaccinated or have been previously infected with COVID-19 can contract omicron, hospitalizations and deaths are significantly higher among those who are unvaccinated.
Hospitals around the country are becoming overwhelmed with cases as some states, including New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia, have declared emergencies to deal with the surge caused by omicron.
In light of the new variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reportedly considering recommending Americans wear higher-quality N95 or KN95 masks.