Fauci: ‘At this point, there is no need for a variant-specific booster’

CDC director says number of omicron cases in US expected to grow in coming weeks

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The White House says America has made significant progress on COVID-19 boosters and vaccines in recent weeks, but COVID-19 cases are on the rise as scientists try to learn more about the omicron variant.

While hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise nationwide, the White House COVID-19 Response Team says science proves vaccinations are saving lives.

According to White House officials, 10.3 million Americans were spared a trip to the hospital due to a serious case of COVID-19 and 1.1 million would have died from the coronavirus if it weren’t for vaccines and boosters.

On Wednesday, the White House COVID-19 Response Team announced the seven-day average of news cases nationwide is 7,800 cases per day — which is an increase of 7.7% over the prior week — and the seven-day average of deaths nationwide is 1,100 people per day — which is an increase of 5% over the prior week.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says 96% of the country’s cases are of the delta variant and the omicron variant represents just 3% of the cases in the country, but that could very well change.

“We expect to see the number of omicron cases in the United States continue to grow in the coming weeks. Early data suggest omicron is more transmissible than delta, with a doubling time of two days,” Walensky said.

COVID-19 cases are increasing among those who aren’t vaccinated or haven’t received a booster shot, according to White House officials.

“An unvaccinated person is eight times more likely to be hospitalized because of COVID and 14 times more likely to die from COVID compared to a fully vaccinated individual,” said White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients.

RELATED: US faces a double coronavirus surge as omicron advances

News4JAX checked with local hospitals on Wednesday. The Baptist Health system reported 24 COVID-19 hospitalizations, with six of those patients in the intensive care unit. UF Health reported 11 total hospitalizations, with seven patients in the ICU. And across the three Ascension St. Vincent’s hospitals, three patients are hospitalized with COVID-19 and one is in the ICU. According to Ascension, 92% of their COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated.

“Our booster vaccines regimen work against omicron. At this point, there is no need for a variant-specific booster. So the message remains clear: if your unvaccinated, get vaccinated, and particularly in the arena of omicron, get your vaccine shot,” said National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci.

News4JAX has also been tracking statewide data on COVID-19 hospitalizations, as reported by the federal government. Florida hospitals are reporting 1,179 adult patients with COVID-19 — that’s up from the recent low point on Nov. 29 of 923 patients with COVID-19 statewide.

And as a reminder of how COVID-19 can still impact our activities, the Jacksonville University women’s basketball team’s way game Wednesday night against the University of North Carolina due to “COVID protocols with the Dolphins’ program.”

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.