Dr. Fauci warns Omicron cases may get ‘much higher’ as more flights are canceled over the Christmas weekend

On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant are likely to climb “much higher” as the variant wreaked havoc on holiday traveling, with 2,271 flights cancelled as of Sunday.  Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC New’s This Week that  “every day it (Omicron cases) goes up. The last weekly average was about 150,000, and it will likely go much higher.”  As of Sunday, 71,044 people nationwide had been hospitalized with COVID-19. New York on Sunday reported 36,454 new COVID-19 cases, down from a record 44,431 on Friday.

Delta canceled 212 flights, JetBlue 195, American Airlines 158 and United 115 as the major airlines cited staff shortages due to COVID-19 outbreaks. A JetBlue spokesman told CNBC that the airline came into the holiday with is highest staffing levels since the beginning of the pandemic but was still forced to cancel flights amid the Omicron surge.

Fauci on Sunday urged Americans not to “get complacent” despite studies showing Omicron appears to be less severe in terms of causing hospitalizations, noting that a high volume of new infections “might override a real diminution in severity. If you have many, many, many more people with a less level of severity, that might kind of neutralize the positive effect of having less severity when you have so many more people. And we’re particularly worried about those who are in that unvaccinated class … those are the most vulnerable ones when you have a virus that is extraordinarily effective in getting to people.”

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