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US COVID-19 cases will continue to rise: Fauci warns

Dr. Anthony Fauci (File photo)

Coronavirus cases in the US are expected to continue to increase as the “extraordinarily contagious” Omicron variant spreads, Dr. Anthony Fauci warns.

"Well, there's one thing that's for sure that we all agree upon, that it is extraordinarily contagious," Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Sunday during an appearance on ABC News' "This Week."

"It's just outstripped even the most contagious of the previous ones, including Delta. There's no argument on anybody's part about that."

As of December 22, the seven-day average of new cases reported in the US is more than 176,000, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One week earlier, on December 15, the seven-day average was only over 121,000, according to CDC data, which also showed the figure was just over 93,000 one month earlier, on November 22.

The new variant is reportedly more transmissible than the previous ones, however, data suggests it produces a more mild infection than other variants of the disease, according to public-health experts. Yet, they still argue that the variant should be taken seriously.

"The issue that we don't want to get complacent about, Jon, is that when you have such a high volume of new infections, it might override a real diminution in severity so that if you have many, many, many more people with less level of severity, that might kind of neutralize the positive effect of having less severity when you have so many more people," Fauci told ABC News' Jon Karl.

The spread of the new Omicron variant, compounded by holiday celebrations, have resulted in a rush on tests in the US, but getting a test is difficult in many locations.

In his interview, Fauci also acknowledged there is a Covid "testing problem," promising to make more tests available to Americans next month.

"One of the problems is that that's not going to be totally available to everyone until we get to January and there are still some issues now of people having trouble getting tested," he said.

The White House’s main strategy has, for weeks, been focused on vaccinations, but it has faced strong criticism since many tests will not be available until January.

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