“But that would only be the case if we did not get another variant that evades the immune response to the former variant,” Fauci told Davos Agenda, a virtual event this week hosted by the World Economic Forum.
“We were lucky” that Omicron did not share some of the same features as Delta, Fauci said. “But the large amount of people who become infected overrides the slightly lower level of pathogenicity.”
“It’s an open question as to whether Omicron will be the live virus vaccination that everyone is hoping for because you have so much variety with new variants popping up,” he said.
And an average of 1,695 Americans died from Covid-19 each day over the past week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Schools are struggling with the Omicron rise
In Texas, all schools and offices in the Houston Independent School District were closed Tuesday due to rising infections in the area, the school district announced on its website. Teaching is expected to resume on Wednesday.
HISD urged students and staff to take “this extra day to reduce potential exposure.”
But New York City’s mayor stressed that classrooms in the nation’s largest school district will remain open – citing “good news” in the city’s fight against Covid-19.
“We have not won yet,” Mayor Eric Adams said Tuesday, but “we will win.”
Covid-19 admissions have dropped from about 6,500 on Jan. 11 to about 5,800 on Jan. 16, said the city’s health commissioner, Dr. David Chokshi.
But Chokshi warned that Covid-19 numbers are still high, reinforcing the need for vaccination.
Although distance learning in the district is not an option, the mayor said, the city is in negotiations with the teachers’ union about the possibility of a distance learning option for sick children isolating at home.
Meanwhile, a masked mandate in schools is under fire in Virginia.
Several districts in Northern Virginia and the Metro Richmond area have announced they will reject the latest order, which is set to begin on January 24.
“Our layered prevention strategies have proven effective in keeping transmission rates low in our schools,” Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand said in a letter to the school community.
“Universal masking has been shown to be effective in keeping Covid-19 transmission rates low in our schools and ensuring that schools remain safe and open,” a statement from Arlington Public Schools said of its decision.
Progress with future vaccines is moving forward
To further advance variants, new vaccines are under development.
Moderna should have data available on its Omicron-specific Covid-19 vaccine in March, the company’s CEO Stephane Bancel said on Monday.
“It should be in the clinic in the coming weeks. And we hope in the March timeframe that we should be able to have data to share with regulators to figure out the next step forward,” he said in a panel discussion in Davos.
A combined Covid-19 and flu booster shot from Moderna may also be available in some countries in the fall of 2023, Bancel said, but he warned that the target date is a “best case scenario.”
Doctors say Covid-19 vaccines and booster doses are the most effective way to ward off serious Covid-19 complications.
Booster doses have successfully demonstrated the ability to raise a person’s antibody levels months after initial inoculations, helping to keep those at higher risk out of the hospital.
In December, Israel began testing a fourth dose of coronavirus vaccines for healthy participants ahead of a rollout of the extra booster shot for at-risk populations – marking the first study of its kind among healthy people receiving a fourth dose.
“I think the decision to allow the fourth vaccine to vulnerable populations is probably the right one,” said Dr. Gili-Regev Yochay, director of the Infection Prevention Control Unit at Sheba Medical Center, on Monday about the data. “It may provide a little bit of benefit, but probably not enough to support the decision to give it to the entire population, I would say.”
CNN’s Jacqueline Howard, John Bonifield, Virginia Langmaid, Kristina Sgueglia, Dan Merica, Eva McKend, Ryan Nobles, Livvy Doherty, Carma Hassan, and Alex Medeiros contributed to this report.