Washington — Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said Sunday that there is no indication that theof the coronavirus causes more severe illness, even as it appears to be more transmissible than earlier strains of the virus.
"There's no indication that it causes more severe illness. What we've seen in South Africa in particular, is a decoupling between the cases and hospitalizations," Gottlieb said Sunday on "Face the Nation."
In South Africa, where the variant was first detected, hospitalizations are down 30% relative to cases and 80% relative to past waves, Gottlieb said. He said that higher levels of immunity, either from vaccinations or earlier infections, could be the reason why "it's manifesting as a less severe illness."
"Probably around 80% of Americans and 90% of South Africans have some level of immunity, either from prior infection or through vaccination," he said.
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 43 states in the U.S. have reported at least one case of the Omicron variant.
Gottlieb said that Americans are experiencing COVID fatigue and are tired of living diminished lives as a result of the virus. He predicted that Omicron "is going to blow its way through the population, probably very quickly, when you look at what happened in South Africa and even what's happening in the U.K. right now, where it's moving very fast. But we do face a hard four to six weeks ahead of us, as is most of the population."
He noted that it would be prudent for vulnerable individuals to take added precautions heading into the holidays, including testing, mitigation measures and vaccinations.
Dr. Francis Collins, the outgoing director of the National Institutes of Health, stressed the importance of vaccinations and booster shots for protecting against the Omicron variant.
"What do we know about Omicron? We know that it's very contagious," Collins"You saw what happened in South Africa initially, then in Europe and now in the U.S. It's doubling about every two to four days, and we're going to see that number of cases go up pretty steeply over the course of the next couple of weeks."
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