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Fauci signals support for domestic air travel vaccine mandate as ‘extraordinarily contagious’ Omicron spreads

Dr. Anthony Fauci during a December 26 appearance on ABC News’ “This Week.”

ABC News/”This Week”

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday signaled support for a vaccine mandate for domestic air travel. 
  • His comments come as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 spreads through the US, driving a surge of cases.
  • “Every day it goes up and up. The last weekly average was about 150,000 and it likely will go much higher,” he said during an appearance on ABC News’ “This Week.” 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, signaled Sunday he would support a vaccine requirement for domestic air travel in the US since it would encourage people to get vaccinated. 

“I mean, vaccine requirements for people coming in from other countries is to prevent newly infected people from getting in to the country,” Fauci said of the existing vaccine requirement for international travelers to the US. 

He made the comments in an interview Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week.”

“A vaccine requirement for a person getting on the plane is just another level of getting people to have a mechanism that would spur them to get vaccinated,” he added of a potential vaccination mandate for domestic air travel. 

President Joe Biden said earlier in December that he did not at present think such a mandate was necessary.

“I continue to rely on the scientists and asking them whether or not we have to move beyond what we did yesterday. Right now, they’re saying no,” he said, according to the New York Post.

—This Week (@ThisWeekABC) December 26, 2021

 

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in November similarly said he didn’t believe a mandate for domestic air travel was necessary, saying current mitigation strategies on planes, namely masking, were effective in stopping the spread of COVID-19. 

Despite calling such a mandate “welcome,” on Sunday, Fauci similarly pointed toward existing strategies as effective in mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

“I mean, anything that could get people more vaccinated would be welcome,” Fauci said Sunday. “But with regard to the spread of virus in the country, I mean, I think if you look at wearing a mask and the filtration on planes, things are reasonably safe,” he added.

According to data from the Transportation Security Administration, more than 1.7 million people went through security screenings at US airports on December 24 compared to just about 616,000 people who traveled on Christmas Eve in 2020.

The holiday travel comes amid an ongoing rise in COVID-19 cases in the US, fueled in part by the Omicron variant of the disease, which is believed to be more transmissible than previous strains of the novel coronavirus, though it may cause more “mild” illness, experts say. 

Fauci on Sunday the Omicron variant “extraordinarily contagious.”

“Every day it goes up and up. The last weekly average was about 150,000 and it likely will go much higher,” he said Sunday of new cases in the US.

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