Mar 18, 2022 - Health

Fauci: COVID cases, not hospitalizations, may rise with BA.2 variant

in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022.

Anthony Fauci speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 11, 2022. Photo: Greg Nash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty Images

NIAID director Anthony Fauci said that the U.S. will likely experience an increase in COVID-19 cases from the BA.2 variant, but it may not result in a significant uptick in hospitalizations or deaths.

Driving the news: "I would not be surprised if in the next few weeks we see somewhat of either a flattening of our diminution or maybe even an increase," Fauci told ABC News' Brad Mielke on the podcast "Start Here."

  • Fauci said that in the United Kingdom, where cases are rising, "their intensive care bed usage is not going up, which means they're not seeing a blip up of severe disease," ABC News reports.
  • The pandemic trajectory in the U.S. has largely followed the UK's by about three weeks, ABC notes.

The big picture: The BA.2 variant is believed to be more transmissible than the original Omicron strain, but it may not cause more severe disease than the original strain, Axios' Tina Reed reports.

  • The BA.2 variant now represents nearly a quarter of all cases in the U.S. and Fauci predicted that it will likely become the dominant variant at some point.
  • "Whether or not that is going to lead to another surge, a mini surge or maybe even a moderate surge, is very unclear because there are a lot of other things that are going on right now," Fauci said.
  • The emergence of the new variant comes as businesses and policymakers nationwide are removing mask and vaccine mandates and loosening COVID protocols, Axios' Caitlin Owens reports.

What he's saying: "From what I know about human nature, which I think is pretty much a lot, people are kind of done with COVID," Fauci said.

  • "You can go ahead and continue to tiptoe towards normality, which is what we're doing, but at the same time, be aware that you may have to reverse."

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