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What’s next for the omicron variant? Here’s what health officials predict

The omicron variant could lead to new records of cases, hospitalizations and more

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An information sign is displayed at a retail store in Niles, Ill., on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021.

An information sign is displayed at a retail store in Niles, Ill., on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021.

Nam Y. Huh, Associated Press

Top federal health officials have warned that the omicron variant will soon cause record COVID-19 case numbers, leading to more hospitalizations and deaths.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” that case numbers will spike over the next weeks and the U.S. could see close to 1 million new cases per day linked to the omicron variant.

  • “The big question is, are those million cases going to be sick enough to need health care and especially hospitalization?” Collins said. “We’re just holding our breath to see how severe this will be.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted something similar in an interview with CNN. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was asked about the potential for record highs in deaths, cases and hospitalizations — and he saw it as a real possibility.

  • “Yes, well, unfortunately, I think that that is going to happen,” he said on CNN.
  • He added: “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, which is one of the reasons why we continue to stress the importance of getting those unvaccinated people vaccinated.”

Per The Washington Post, health officials have called on unvaccinated people to get their COVID-19 vaccine shots and for those who received their two-dose vaccine regimens to get a booster shot.

  • “If you do these things, I do believe that you can feel quite comfortable with a family setting,” Fauci said, according to The Washington Post. “Nothing is 100 percent risk-free, but I think if you do the things that I just mentioned, you’d actually mitigate that risk enough to feel comfortable about being able to enjoy the holiday.”