1 million daily COVID infections could become US norm, outgoing NIH director warns

Coronavirus

(WJW) — One of the nation’s top doctors is warning that, with the rapid spread of the omicron variant, the United States could soon see 1 million new coronavirus cases per day.

National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins, who is retiring after 12 years on the job, appeared on NPR’s “Weekend Edition” Sunday explaining that now is not the time for people to give up on protective measures.

“I know people are tired of this,” the doctor said in the NPR interview. “I’m tired of it too, believe me. But the virus is not tired of us. It’s having a great old time changing its shape every couple of months, coming up with new variants and figuring out ways to be even more contagious.”

FILE – In this May 7, 2020 file photo, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins attends a Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on new coronavirus tests on Capitol Hill in Washington. On Wednesday, May 20, 2020, the physician and geneticist was announced as the winner of the 2020 Templeton Prize, one of the world’s leading religion prizes for demonstrating how religious faith can motivate scientific research. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Although initial scientific reports regarding omicron have found the variant to be more contagious yet not as severe, there are still many unknowns.

“Even if it has a somewhat lower risk of severity, we could be having a million cases a day if we’re not really attentive to all of those mitigation strategies,” Collins predicted on NPR.

Collins noted that omicron has 57 mutations, leading him to believe it’s “almost like we’re starting over with a different virus than where we began.”

As of this week, coronavirus continues to spread rapidly through Ohio, with Gov. Mike DeWine sending 1,050 members of the Ohio National Guard to help hospitals, including those in Northeast Ohio. Over the last 21 days, the Ohio Department of Health says hospitals are averaging about 325 hospitalizations a day, and local hospitals report they’re at capacity.

President Joe Biden plans to give a speech Tuesday regarding the omicron variant and what his administration plans to do as cases surge across the country.

With holiday travel coming up, spread is most likely only going to increase across the country. However, Collins, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, who spoke on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, are not canceling the holidays.

Collins said he plans to host a small group at his home this week, where everyone would be wearing masks and is vaccinated and boosted. Fauci also said he thinks fully-vaccinated travelers who wear masks should “be OK.”

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