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Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned on Sunday that the COVID-19 Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in the United States.

Driving the news: Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" that U.S. officials will meet with colleagues from South Africa later on Sunday to try to determine the severity of the cases, as countries scramble to learn more about the variant.

Asked if Omicron has been found in the U.S. yet, Fauci said it has not, "and we have a pretty good surveillance system."

  • "But as we all know, when you have a virus that has already gone to multiple countries, inevitably it will be here. The question is: Will we be prepared for it?"
  • "The preparation that we have ongoing for ... the Delta variant just needs to be revved up ... by getting more and more people vaccinated, and getting the fully vaccinated boosted."
  • "If and when, and it's going to be when, it comes here, hopefully we will be ready for it by enhancing our capabilities via vaccine, masking — all the things that we do, and should be doing."

He also said the variant looked likely to be highly transmissible, but officials need more data.

  • "It has the molecular characteristics that would strongly suggest that it would be transmissible," Fauci said.
  • "It has a disturbingly large number of mutations in the spike protein, which is the business end of the virus." Fauci said that binds "to the receptors in your body — in your nose ... and in your lung."
  • "The mutation would strongly suggest that it would be more transmissible and that it might evade ... perhaps even antibodies that are induced by vaccine."

Fauci said cases in southern Africa suggest "transmissibility advantage." But for now, he said, that's unknown.

  • Fauci praised South African officials for being "incredibly good about being so transparent ab0ut what's going on there."

Go deeper: NIH director: "No reason to panic" yet about Omicron variant

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Transplants rebound from COVID lull
  2. Vaccines: WHO: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America
  3. Politics: Government website for free COVID tests launches early
  4. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older
  5. Variant tracker
Updated 51 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Political consultants pocket taxpayer cash

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Members of Congress are turning to the same political consultants who got them elected to blast out taxpayer-funded communications from their government offices, records show.

Why it matters: While those members are barred from politicking with official funds, the firms have expertise in boosting elected officials' images for political gain and are in high demand for both campaign and government work.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Transplants rebound from COVID lull
  2. Vaccines: WHO: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America
  3. Politics: Government website for free COVID tests launches early
  4. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older
  5. Variant tracker