‘We could be having a million cases a day,’ outgoing NIH director warns

Coronavirus

(WJW) — One of the nation’s top doctors is warning that, with the rapid spread of the omicron variant, the United States could soon see one million new COVID-19 cases a day.

Dr.Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, appeared on NPR’s “Weekend Edition” on Sunday, explaining that now is not the time for people to give up on protective measures.

“I know people are tired of this,” Collins said in the interview. “I’m tired of it too, believe me. But the virus is not tired of us. It’s having a great old time changing its shape every couple of months, coming up with new variants and figuring out ways to be even more contagious.”

In this May 7, 2020 file photo, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins attends a Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee hearing. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Collins is retiring soon after 12 years on the job,

Although initial scientific reports regarding omicron have found it to be more contagious but not as severe as other variants, many unknowns remain.

“Even if it has a somewhat lower risk of severity, we could be having a million cases a day if we’re not really attentive to all of those mitigation strategies,” Collins said. He also noted that omicron has 57 mutations, leading him to believe it’s “almost like we’re starting over with a different virus than where we began.”

President Joe Biden plans to give a speech Tuesday about the omicron variant and what his administration plans to do as cases surge across the country.

With holiday travel coming up, the spread of the variant is likely only going to increase across the country. However, Collins, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, who spoke on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, are not canceling the holidays.

Collins said he plans to host a small group at his home this week, where everyone will be wearing masks and vaccinated and boosted. Fauci also said he thinks fully-vaccinated travelers who wear masks should “be OK.”

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