The nation's leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said that preliminary data on the Omicron variant of the coronavirus shows the strain may not be as severe as scientists initially thought.
"Although it's too early to make any definitive statements about it, thus far it does not look like there's a great degree of severity to it," Dr. Fauci told CNN. "But we've really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or really doesn't cause any severe illness comparable to delta, but thus far, the signals are a bit encouraging regarding the severity."
The Omicron variant was first identified in South Africa and has more than 50 mutations, including 30 to the spike protein. The variant worried scientists because of its potential to evade protection from COVID-19 vaccines. The World Health Organization declared it a "variant of concern."
Pfizer and Moderna are currently working to adapt their vaccines to the new strain and could have updated inoculations ready to be distributed within 100 days.
While the Omicron variant continues to spread across the country, the Delta variant is still the predominant strain, accounting for 99% of new cases. As of Sunday (December 5), at least 16 states have reported cases of the Omicron variant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.