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Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images

CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Sunday said that the number of Omicron coronavirus cases in the United States is "likely to rise."

Why it matters: The newly discovered variant has already been detected in at least 15 states, fueling concerns about the strain's ability to drive up a new wave of infections.

  • Whether Omicron is more transmissible than prior variants is not yet known, but there are some signs that it may not cause more severe disease than the other variants, Axios' Caitlin Owens writes.
  • Speaking on ABC's "This Week," Walensky stressed that the more mutations a variant possesses, the more immunity an individual needs to prevent infection, adding that "we're really pushing to get more people vaccinated and more people boosted."

What they're saying: "We know it has many mutations ... and many of those mutations have been associated with more transmissible variants," Walensky told host Martha Raddatz.

  • "What we don't yet know is how transmissible it will be, how well our vaccines will work, whether it will lead to more severe disease," she added.
  • "We're really hopeful that our vaccines will work in a way that even if they don't prevent disease entirely, prevent infection entirely, that they can work to protect severe disease and keep people out of the hospital."

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: New York Supreme Court grants stay for indoor mask mandate — Neil Young demands Spotify take down music over vaccine misinformation — Biden admin withdraws temporary vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker

The front-runners for Biden's Supreme Court pick

Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson (left) and Justice Leondra Kruger (right) Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images and Lonnie Tague, US Department of Justice

Two highly accomplished Black female judges — Ketanji Brown Jackson, a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals; and Leondra Kruger, a justice on the California Supreme Court — are seen as the early front-runners to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

The big picture: Jackson is a powerful federal judge with a record that progressives feel they can trust. Kruger was a highly regarded litigator and has carved out a reputation for working well with conservative judges.

Fed: Rate hikes are near

The Federal Reserve's headquarters building. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve is on track to raise its main target interest rate in mid-March, as Chair Jerome Powell pledged to be "humble and nimble" in adapting policy to a fast-changing economy.

Why it matters: Fed leaders are looking to choke off inflation by raising interest rates in the near future, but keeping its options open for how fast and far the effort will go.