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When will Omicron hit the U.S.? Fauci says it might be here already.

·1 min read
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fauci TODAY/Screenshot

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Satuday said he would "not be surprised" is the new Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus is already in the United States.

Appearing on Weekend TODAY, Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, explained that while American authorities "have not detected it yet" in the U.S., "when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility and you're already having travel-related cases that they've noted in Israel and Belgium and other places ... it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over."

This new strain, which was first detected in southern Africa and has already led to extensive travel bans, has been labeled a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization, meaning that it is highly infectious or transmissible or that it is particularly resistant to vaccines and other treatments.

By naming the variant "Omicron," the WHO skipped the Greek letters Nu and Xi. "'Nu' is too easily confounded with 'new,' and 'Xi' was not used because it is a common last name," the WHO said in a statement, explaining further that the "best practices for naming disease suggest avoiding 'causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups.'"

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has already declared a state of emergency in New York following a winter spike in COVID cases and the prospect of new Omicron infections, The Washington Post reports. The emergency allows the state's Health Department to place limits on nonessential and non-urgent care until at least Jan. 15.

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