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Fauci Says Hospitalizations are a Better Indicator of Omicron Severity Than Infection Numbers

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said Sunday that hospitalizations are a better guide to determining the severity of the highly infectious omicron variant of COVID-19 than case counts.

When asked by host George Stephanopoulos during an appearance on ABC's "This Week" if there should be less of a focus on daily infection numbers, Fauci said, "The answer is, overall, yes." 

"This is particularly relevant if you’re having an infection that is much, much more asymptomatic and minimally symptomatic, particularly in people who are vaccinated and boosted," Fauci said. "The real bottom line that you want to be concerned about is, are we getting protected by the vaccines from severe disease leading to hospitalization?"

He did still warn that even though many unvaccinated individuals are going to get asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic cases, a "fair number" of the "tens of millions of people" who have not received any COVID shot are going to come down with severe coronavirus cases.

Fauci went on to say, "As you get further on and the infections become less severe, it is much more relevant to focus on the hospitalizations as opposed to the total number of cases."

And during a Sunday appearance on CNN's "State of the Union," Fauci said that the U.S. cannot become complacent about the virus because, while omicron is reported to produce milder cases of COVID than previous variants, there likely will still be a high number of hospitalizations.

"It’s a very interesting, somewhat complicated issue, where you have a virus that might actually be less severe in its pathogenicity, but so many people are getting infected that the net amount, the total amount of people that will require hospitalization, might be up," Fauci said, referring to omicron. "We can’t be complacent in these reports. We’re still going to get a lot of hospitalizations."

As of Jan. 1, the U.S. has a reported seven-day case average of fewer than 387,000, which, according to The New York Times database, is a 202 percent increase over the past two weeks. Meanwhile, hospitalizations saw an average of 90,000 per day, a mere 30 percent jump, while deaths dipped to a daily average of 1,240, a decline of 4 percent.

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