Fauci: 'We don't want to get complacent' despite reports that omicron may be less severe

Dr. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health Care — ObamaCare gets record numbers Fans attending Super Bowl LVI to be given KN95 masks The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Breaking: Justice Breyer to retire MORE on Sunday said Americans “don’t want to get complacent” despite reports that the omicron variant may lead to less-severe illness than previous COVID-19 strains.

Asked by host George StephanopoulosGeorge Robert StephanopoulosAlec Baldwin turns over cell phone in 'Rust' probe How a nice-guy South Dakota senator fell into a Trump storm GOP senator says he would 'take a hard look' at another Trump run MORE on ABC’s “This Week” about early evidence that the omicron variant leads to less-serious infections and illness, Fauci said that while there is “accumulating evidence,” it is “still early.”

“There's accumulating evidence, George, that that is the case. So we first got inkling of that in South Africa when one looked at the relationship in the ratio between hospitalizations and cases, it was lower. The duration of hospital stay was lower. The requirements for oxygen was lower,” Fauci said.

“We're seeing a bit of that, not as pronounced in the U.K., but certainly that trend. And if you look here at the United States, we don't want to get complacent at all and you don't want to jump to a positive conclusion ‘cause it's still early,” he added.

The White House medical adviser noted, however, that the U.S. has “not seen a concomitant increase in the relative percentage of hospitalizations” amid a large spike in cases. He warned, though, that hospitalizations are oftentimes “late lagging indicators.”

“But I still believe that there is indication, even in some animal studies that have been done, George, where they did, particular animal models that might reflect what's going on, and the virus does seem to have a lower intrinsic pathogenicity to it. We're hoping that's the case,” he added.

Fauci told reporters during a White House briefing on Wednesday that, based on early data, the omicron variant appears to be less severe than the delta strain for people who are vaccinated. He pointed to international studies and some initial data from U.S. hospitals.

Fauci on Sunday, however, warned about Americans becoming complacent despite the early signs because a large caseload can still overwhelm hospitals.

"Even if you have a less of a percentage of severity, when you have multi, multi, multi fold more people getting infected, the net amount is you're still gonna get a lot of people that are gonna be needing hospitalization, and that's the reason why we're concerned about stressing and straining the hospital system," he said.