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Anthony Fauci waits for President Biden to arrive for a video call on COVID-19 response at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Dec. 27 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

NIAID director Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that "all indications point to a lesser severity of Omicron versus Delta," citing preliminary data during a White House COVID-19 briefing.

Driving the news: Fauci cited a working paper from the University of Edinburgh that suggests Omicron is associated with a two-thirds reduction in the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization compared to Delta, among other research.

  • Fauci added that the "final conclusion about the level of severity in children remains to be determined," and warned that there will be more hospitalizations among children due to the rising number of infections.
  • "It is noteworthy, however, that many children are hospitalized with COVID as opposed to because of COVID, reflecting the high degree of penetrance of infection among the pediatric population," Fauci said.

What he's saying: Fauci cautioned that "it is difficult to determine what degree of lessened severity is due to pre-existing immunity or the intrinsically lower virulence of Omicron ... or a combination of both."

  • "We should not become complacent, since our hospital system could still be stressed in certain areas of the country," Fauci said.
  • "And so to repeat what we say so often and it deserves reemphasis, the risk of severe disease from any circulating variant, including Omicron, is much, much higher for the unvaccinated. And so, adults and children who are eligible, get vaccinated and vaccinated people, get boosted when eligible."

The big picture: Fauci's remarks come as COVID-19 cases are surging rapidly across the nation, largely due to the highly contagious Omicron variant.

  • The current seven-day daily average is about 240,400 cases per day, about 60% higher than the previous week, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday.
  • The seven day-average of hospitalizations is about 9,000 per day, a 14% increase over the previous week, which "could be due to the fact that hospitalizations tend to lag behind cases by about two weeks, but may also be due to early indications ... of milder disease from Omicron, especially among the vaccinated," Walensky said.

Go deeper: Top health officials defend CDC's change to COVID isolation period

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February.
  2. Vaccines: The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: New York Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Hochul's mask mandate for public areas — Sarah Palin tests positive for COVID, delaying defamation trial — Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker

FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly COVID antibody treatments

A coldbox containing monoclonal antibody treatments at a Regeneron clinic in Pembroke Pines, Florida, in August. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The FDA said Monday it's limiting the use of two monoclonal antibody therapies as COVID-19 treatments because data indicates they're "highly unlikely" to be effective against the dominant Omicron variant.

Driving the news: The FDA revised the authorizations for Regeneron and Eli Lilly "to limit their use to only when the patient is likely to have been infected with or exposed to a variant that is susceptible to these treatments," per a statement from the agency.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.