Dec 19, 2021 - Health

U.S. could see 1 million COVID cases a day, warns retiring NIH director

Francis Collins

Francis Collins. Photo: Sarah Silbiger-Pool/Getty Images

The Omicron variant could drive the U.S. toward U.S. hitting a million COVID-19 cases per day if Americans are not vigilant about mitigation strategies, outgoing National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins warned on NPR's "Weekend Edition" Sunday.

Driving the news: The variant has been detected in 89 countries and is driving COVID-19 cases to double every 1.5 to 3 days in areas where there is community spread, according to the World Health Organization.

What they're saying: "I know people are tired of this. I'm tired of it too, believe me. But the virus is not tired of us," Collins said.

  • "We do not know what this virus is capable of doing," he added. "And even if it has a somewhat lower risk of severity, we could be having a million cases a day if we're not really attentive to all of those mitigation strategies."
  • "Nobody expected Omicron — this one was really a curveball, a variant that has 57 different mutations in it that makes it almost like we're starting over with a different virus than where we began."

Go deeper: WHO says Omicron cases doubling in 1.5 to 3 days in places with local spread

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