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Fauci says Omicron COVID wave could peak by end-January, as it ‘turned around very quickly’ in South Africa

White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said the latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US could peak in a couple of weeks.

Photo by Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images

  • Omicron has become the most common coronavirus variant in the US.
  • Anthony Fauci said the US Omicron COVID-19 wave is likely to peak by the end of January.
  • He said it’s possible the Omicron could accelerate the end of the pandemic, but there’s “no guarantee.”

White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said the latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US could peak by the end of next month.

“It certainly peaked pretty quickly in South Africa,” Fauci told CNBC’s “Closing Bell” on Wednesday, referring to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, which was first reported in the country at the end of November. “It went up almost vertically and turned around very quickly,” he said.

The Omicron variant has become the most common coronavirus variant in the US.

Considering the size of the US and the country’s levels of vaccination — around 62% — the peak “likely will be more than a couple of weeks, probably by the end of January, I would think,” Fauci told CNBC.

A recent University of Texas report estimated that US Omicron cases could peak between January 18 and February 3, while daily COVID-19 cases could bottom out in March — even as Omicron remained widespread.

Regarding a theory that the Omicron variant could accelerate the end of the pandemic, Fauci told CNBC that while the scenario is possible, there’s “no guarantee” it would happen.

“But if you have a very transmissible virus that replaces another virus, and that virus has less of a degree of severity, that would be a positive outcome,” he said.

A small study by scientists in South Africa published on Tuesday suggests that people infected with the Omicron variant could have better immunity against the Delta variant and that Omicron could displace Delta and become the prevalent coronavirus variant eventually.

However, “this virus has fooled us before. Remember, we thought with the vaccines everything was going to be fine. And along came Delta, which threw a monkey wrench into everything,” Fauci told CNBC. 

So “there’s no guarantee that that would mean the end of a serious outbreak,” he told CNBC.

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