In this Nov. 4, 2021, file photo, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Credit: Alex Brandon / AP


Americans should stay vigilant against the omicron variant despite evidence its symptoms may be less severe because the volume of cases can still overwhelm hospitals, President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser said Sunday.

“The issue that we don’t want to get complacent about, Jon, is that when you have such a high volume of new infections it might override a real diminution in severity,“ Anthony Fauci told ABC’s Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl on “This Week.”

“So that if you have many, many, many more people with a less level of severity, that might kind of neutralize the positive effect of having less severity,” said Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Preliminary data from Scotland shows that omicron “is associated with a two-thirds reduction in the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization when compared to delta.” However, the same study showed that it was 10 times more likely than delta to infect people who’d already had COVID-19.

New daily omicron infections in the U.S. have surpassed those in the delta wave, CNN reported. U.S. airlines scrapped almost 1,900 flights for the holiday weekend because of personnel shortages linked to a spike in cases.

Meanwhile, China reported the highest number of local infections since January and France had a daily record of more than 100,000 new cases. Since the start of the pandemic, cases globally have now surpassed 279 million.

The Biden administration is focused on making sure that “we don’t get an overrun on hospitals, particularly in those regions in which you have a larger proportion of unvaccinated individuals,” Fauci said.

Fauci’s comments come as the administration faces criticism over a shortage of at-home rapid tests. Last week, Biden said he had used wartime powers to advance the production of a billion more test kits.

Ben Bain, Bloomberg News