National Omicron BA.2 Wave Unlikely To Hit US, Says Former FDA Commissioner
The variant of COVID-19’s latest Omicron-related mutation has sparked concern that it could mean a fresh wave of the virus across the United States. However, a former health official suggests that this may in fact be unlikely.
On Tuesday, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who served as a Commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and has become a frequently cited expert on COVID-19, said that the number of cases of the Omicron BA.2 subvariant is likely “dramatically” underreported in parts of the U.S. However, Gottlieb also suggested that this did not mean a fresh wave of infections is over the horizon.
“I think we’re further into this than we perceive,” Gottlieb told CNBC where he serves as a contributor. “It’s probably not going to be a national wave of infection.”
Gottlieb pointed to regional and global trends to make his point that the BA.2 subvariant is already showing itself to be limited in its reach. In the United Kingdom and Germany, Gottlieb says, the case count has started to decline quickly from any BA.2-related peak.
Indeed, the U.K. experienced a spike in Omicron-related cases in January as the new strain began to spread, but it has since begun to fall. The European Union for its part began to see a rise in cases by February, raising fears that a new wave would take place in the U.S., but it too has begun to taper off.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron is already the predominant strain in the United States. The agency estimates that it may make up about 72% of all current COVID-19 cases across the country.
Gottlieb’s assessment is similar to those expressed by other public health experts, who say an uptick in cases is possible, but a surge is unlikely.
However, there remain vulnerabilities that are disadvantageous to the United States. About 23% of Americans remain unvaccinated against the virus and several local governments have begun to cut back on test and trace programs. Meanwhile, the focus on testing has shifted more to at-home exams that leave room for an undercounting of cases.