The omicron virus is raging across the world as the winter holiday season approaches, making Covid-19 vaccinations and booster shots more crucial than ever for traveling Americans, chief White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday.
Omicron has been found through testing in 43 out of 50 U.S. states and around 90 countries so far after first being identified in southern Africa and Hong Kong in late November.
The number of cases is doubling in 1.5 to 3 days in areas with community transmission and is spreading rapidly in countries with high levels of population immunity, the World Health Organization said on Saturday.
“It is just, you know, raging through the world,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The impact of the virus is spreading across the United States, with hospitalizations jumping, sports games being rescheduled and entertainment venues canceling shows.
Since the start of the month, both U.S. Covid-19 cases and deaths have risen about 50% and the number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients climbed 26%, according to a Reuters tally.
President Joe Biden planned to give a speech on Tuesday about the fast-spreading variant and plans to combat it, hammering home his message to unvaccinated Americans to get a shot and for those who are vaccinated to get a booster.
Part of Biden’s plan is to focus on increased testing, Fauci said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.
“We’ve got to do better,” he said. “We really need to flood the system with testing. We need to have tests available for anyone who wants them.”
Fauci urged Americans who are traveling during the holidays to get a booster, wear masks and avoid crowded public spaces to help slow the spread of omicron.
Traveling will increase the risk of infection even among vaccinated people, Fauci said in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“We are going to see breakthrough infection – there is no doubt about that,” Fauci said.
A booster shot greatly increases protection against a severe illness from an omicron infection, Fauci said.
The omicron variant will likely overcome Delta as the dominant variant in the United States, he added.
Disclosure: Comcast is parent of NBC and CNBC.