Omicron could become the dominant variant, but Delta is a problem now, says Walensky – .

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Omicron could become the dominant variant, but Delta is a problem now, says Walensky – .



Walensky spoke about it on Friday afternoon with CNN chief medical correspondent Dr Sanjay Gupta. The interview has been edited for clarity.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta : It’s been over a week now since the world learned of this new variant. What do we know now that we did not know then?

Dr Rochelle Walensky : This data is really starting to emerge. We have seen an increase in cases in South Africa and Southern Africa. We will learn a lot about this variant from them.

We’ve stepped up our genomic sequencing here and prepared for it with all the work we’ve done so far.

We have so many more tools now to deal with the variants than a year ago, but I want to highlight what was said above which is that we currently have around 86,000 cases of Covid in the United States diagnosed. daily, and 99.9% of them, the vast majority of them, remain Delta. And we know what we need to do against Delta and that is to get vaccinated. Get boosted if you are eligible. And continue with all of these prevention measures including masking, and these are also very likely to work against Omicron.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta : Are you worried that Omicron will become a dominant strain here? Do we have any evidence of this or what is your level of concern?

Dr Rochelle Walensky : You know, that could be the case and we don’t know it yet. What we do know is that early data, and even mutation data, tells us that it may well be a more heritable variant than Delta. It will take some time to resolve. We are ready, however. We do genomic sequencing in all of these states, but we may very well start to see more Omicron than Delta. And we will be monitoring this very closely.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta : As you mentioned, we do a lot more sequencing, certainly than a year or even several months ago, but it seems to me, Dr Walensky, that we are still only doing a little over a million. tests per day. Period. There was talk at one point of doing 20 million, 30 million tests a day. If we don’t do enough testing, even if we sequence more, doesn’t that set us back in terms of actually being able to actually get a real view of what’s going on here?

Dr Rochelle Walensky : So I think you are referring to PCR testing. We do about 1.5 million PCR tests per week. But I think what we really need to comment on is that we are doing much faster testing and even with the President’s actions yesterday, we are stepping up rapid testing at our international airports as we speak, at LAX and at San Francisco, Atlanta, Newark, JFK to make sure we have rapid tests and PCR tests available for international travelers so they can come in and test, you know, three to five days, even if they don’t. show no symptoms after arrival.

We do a lot of testing in our K-12 communities, in our higher education communities. And we are stepping up our rapid tests that will be available in low-income settings and in more vulnerable communities so that these rapid tests are free. We have rapid tests which will now be available and which can be reimbursed by your insurance company. So we do a lot more, not only in our PCR tests, but also in our rapid tests.

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Dr. Sanjay Gupta : I think a lot of people, especially as we move into the cooler, drier months, still have questions about the testing. Who should be tested? How often should people get tested? What kind of tests should they use?

Dr Rochelle Walensky : The bottom line is to have accessible and affordable testing when you need it or want one and that is exactly the goal of all scaling.

Of course, if you have symptoms suggestive of Covid-19, you should go and get tested. And I would say if you have access to a quick test first, then do it. If you have easy access to a PCR, get this one.

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So anyone with symptoms should of course take a test and then see their healthcare provider, but definitely quarantine until you have the results of that test.

Then a lot of people use tests for asymptomatic screening like they do in our K through 12 systems, like they do in a lot of our higher education institutions, and a lot of people are also using it as people start to feel. gather for the holidays. For example, if you want to organize a rally and you have a whole group of people who are vaccinated, who have been practicing prevention measures for the weeks leading up to the rally and who really want to be reassured on top of that, you can get tested to make sure. sure you are sure to come together.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta : You mentioned the patients who have now been diagnosed with this new variant here in the United States. One of them is a patient from Minnesota and this is someone who has been fully immunized and also received a booster. So we advise people to get the vaccine, to get a booster – but then we hear about this particular person who seems to have mild symptoms. What level of concern does this present?

Dr Rochelle Walensky : I think we have to understand the whole situation there. We are still learning a lot about this case and all the contacts. It may well be that this case was one of the 1,000 people who were exposed to Omicron. And that was the only case that turned positive, in which case it would have been indicated that our vaccines are working very well.

It is also very helpful to understand that this person was exhibiting mild symptoms which to my knowledge resolved rather quickly. So it may very well be that this is in fact a vaccine success story and not necessarily a vaccine failure.

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Dr. Sanjay Gupta : I want to ask a question on this issue of natural immunity. It comes back a bit. People who have had Covid feel like they have this immunity acquired through infection, wondering why they still need to be vaccinated. There has been a lot of back and forth about this. Should there be a plan in place to be able to determine if someone actually has antibodies, is immune, and therefore doesn’t need to be vaccinated now, or be given a booster now, whatever it is?

Dr Rochelle Walensky : This is really an important question and still under study. What I think is really important to understand here is that the more mutations you have in a variant, the more you want to build up your immunity to have as much immunity as possible to overcome that variant.

And so what we now know with the Omicron variant is that more immunity will be better. So if you have ever had an infection, you will certainly be more protected if you get the vaccine as well. And that is really the point here – to try to provide as much protection as possible so that people are protected against serious illnesses and ideally against infections.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta : Usually, when something like this happens, we’re used to hearing the CDC immediately. Do you think the country would have benefited from hearing from you when this variant actually came out?

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Dr Rochelle Walensky : We all worked together over the holiday weekend and got a statement as soon as that came out, and we intend to be and will continue to be fully transparent with all the data we learn as soon as we get it. will learn it.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta : So you were by no means sidelined.

Dr Rochelle Walensky : Ah, absolutely not. We collaborated and worked all weekend together.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta : Okay, Dr Walensky, please keep in touch. We want to keep hearing from you and keep us updated on what is happening Omicron.

Dr Rochelle Walensky : Well, absolutely. Thank you very much for having me.

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