US' top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci on Monday said that the number of hospitalisations due to Omicron is a better measure of its severity than the traditional case count of new infections. Fauci further cautioned the public to not be fooled by preliminary data suggesting that the variant lacks the severity of earlier covid variants.
"You have a virus that looks like it might be less severe, at least from data we've gathered from South Africa, the UK and even some from preliminary data from here in the US," he said.
"It's a very interesting, somewhat complicated issue a so many people are getting infected that the net amount, the total amount of people that will require hospitalisation, might be up. We can't be complacent in these reports. We're still going to get a lot of hospitalisations," he warned.
Instead of referring to dramatic surges in case counts which prompts unnecessary worries, government officials and the public should review death and hospitalisation data, recommend some experts. "Case counts are causing a lot of panic and fear, but they don't reflect what they used to, which was that hospitalisations would track with cases," said Dr Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
When asked if it was time to focus less on case count, Fauci retorted, "The answer is, overall, yes".
"This is particularly relevant if you're having an infection that is much, much more asymptomatic and minimally symptomatic, particularly in people who are vaccinated and boosted. The real bottom line that you want to be concerned about is, are we getting protected by the vaccines from severe disease leading to hospitalisation?" Fauci said.
Though the US has made vaccination a priority, only 62 per cent of eligible residents in the US are fully vaccinated. Less than 25 per cent of US children are vaccinated despite increasing cases in children.
"I'm still very concerned about the tens of millions of people who are not vaccinated at all because even though many of them are going to get asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic, a fair number of them are going to get severe disease," Fauci said.