Fauci Foresees Potential Record Death Rate From Omicron: 'I Think That Is Going to Happen'

Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, said on Sunday that record-breaking death rates could occur as the COVID Omicron variant spreads across the U.S.

Fauci made an appearance on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday, where host Jake Tapper pressed the leading infectious disease expert on where he believes the pandemic is headed.

Tapper asked, "Do you expect new record high numbers for cases? And what about hospitalizations and deaths?"

"Yes, well, unfortunately, Jake, I think that that is going to happen," Fauci replied. "We are going to see a significant stress in some regions of the country on the hospital system, particularly in those areas where you have a low level of vaccination, which is one of the reasons why we continue to stress the importance of getting those unvaccinated people vaccinated."

anthony fauci record deaths
Anthony Fauci warned Sunday of potentially record-breaking COVID cases due to the Omicron variant. Above, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director listens at a pandemic briefing in the White House on March 27, 2020. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Omicron variant was first reported by researchers in South Africa last month, after being detected in several southern African nations. It was detected in the U.S. earlier this month and has now been reported in most states. Experts predict that it will overtake Delta as the dominant variant in the U.S. in a few weeks.

Fauci predicted that the country is in for a difficult time as the Omicron variant continues to spread and take over.

"It is going to be tough," Fauci said. "We can't walk away from that, Jake. We can't, because, with Omicron that we're dealing with, it is going to be a tough few weeks to months as we get deeper into the winter."

Fauci also refuted the notion, expressed this week by Vice President Kamala Harris, that officials did not see COVID-19 variants coming. He reiterated that what is surprising about Omicron is not that it happened at all, but rather the number of mutations it seems to possess.

"We definitely saw variants coming," he explained. "What was not anticipated was the extent of the mutations and the amino acid substitutions in Omicron, which is really unprecedented. It kind of came out of nowhere, where you have a virus that has 50 mutations, 30 of which are in the spike protein, and 10 or 12 of which are in the receptor binding domain. I mean, to me, that's really quite unprecedented."

Harris, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, appeared to suggest that the Biden administration was surprised by the spread of COVID-19 variants in the U.S.

"We didn't see Delta coming. I think most scientists did not—upon whose advice and direction we have relied—didn't see Delta coming," she said. "We didn't see Omicron coming. And that's the nature of what this, this awful virus has been, which as it turns out, has mutations and variants."