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NIAID director Anthony Fauci told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that the U.S. will likely see record numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the weeks ahead due to the Omicron variant.

Driving the news: The variant has been detected in 89 countries, and experts are warning of a large winter surge due to the variant's high transmissibility and its ability to evade immune protection.

What they're saying: Asked by host Jake Tapper whether the U.S. is likely to see record high numbers of cases, as well as hospitalizations and deaths, Fauci said, "Unfortunately, Jake, I think that that is going to happen."

  • "We are going to see a significant stress in some regions of the country on the hospital system, particularly in those areas where you have a low level of vaccination,” he added.
  • "This virus is extraordinary. It has a doubling time of anywhere from two to three days," adding that the variant is "going to take over."
  • “It is going to be a tough few weeks to months, as we get deeper into the winter."

Fauci also appeared on MSNBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, where he mentioned the variant's "extraordinary capability of spreading" and that Omicron is "raging" through the world.

  • Fauci also warned the belief that Omicron cases might be less severe is derived from data from South Africa, where the population has had "so much experience with prior infections that it might be underlying immunity that's making it look like it's less severe."
  • "As a virus, it inherently may not be less severe," he warned.
  • "We have so many people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not yet been vaccinated. And that's going to be a real problem for stress on the hospital system," Fauci added of the coming situation in the U.S.

Go deeper

Updated 15 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February — FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated".
  2. Vaccines: Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: Beijing Olympic Committee lowers COVID testing threshold ahead of Games — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Europe's energy reliance on Russia is a crucial shield for Putin

Photo: Pavel Bednyakov/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

Cracks in the NATO alliance regarding sanctions for Russia should President Vladimir Putin order troops into Ukraine are in large part based on energy supply concerns.

Why it matters: Russia holds tremendous leverage over some European countries because it provides roughly 40% of Europe's natural gas supply. In Germany, this figure is greater than 50%.

Why the Fed might want to jolt the markets

Fed chair Jerome Powell at a hearing earlier this month. Photo: Brendan Smialowski-Pool/Getty Images

So far, financial markets are cooperating nicely with the Federal Reserve's efforts to restrain inflation. They're doing the Fed's work for it by creating tighter financial conditions, in a distinctly non-panicky way.

  • But as the central bank's policymakers meet this week, an underlying question they face is whether the adjustment is happening too slowly.