The United States’ number one infectious disease expert has urged Americans to avoid mass New Year’s Eve celebrations, as new daily case records for COVID-19 continue to be broken, driven by the highly contagious variant of Omicron.
The US recorded 489,267 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, according to the Johns Hopkins University Corona Virus Resource Center, just two days after recording a record daily number of 512,553 cases. Currently, the US is on average reporting more than 265,000 new coronavirus cases per day, breaking the previous record of 250,000 new daily cases recorded in January 2021.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said Wednesday that he “strongly advises” people to cancel plans to attend large parties with “30, 40, 50 people” during the holiday season this year, and instead gather in small groups with friends or relatives who have been vaccinated and have received booster injections.
In an interview on Wednesday (29/12) at CNBCFauci also expects the current surge in positive cases driven by Omicron to peak in the US by the end of January.
The health expert said that although Omicron has spread rapidly around the world since it was first detected in South Africa last month, it appears that the variant causes milder symptoms than other variants of the coronavirus. However, World Health Organization (WHO) officials warned this week that it was too early to say how Omicron would impact older and more vulnerable people.
Meanwhile, a new study in South Africa shows a single-dose booster shot of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine provides strong protection against the omicron variant.
Researchers at the South African Council for Medical Research said booster shots of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were administered to about 69,000 health care workers between November 15 and December 20. The result, effectively preventing hospitalization, increased immunity from 63 percent shortly after the injection, to 84 percent 14 days later, and 85 percent within one to two months.
In addition, a separate study involving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the US showed that it provided a 41-fold increase in neutralizing antibody when used as a booster injection for people who had previously received two doses of Pfizer vaccine.
While doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston also told CNN that the Johnson & Johnson booster vaccine resulted in a fivefold increase in T cell production – the ‘arm’ of the human immune system that kills virus-infected cells and prevents them from replicating and spreading. [rd/jm]