Collins warns 1 million COVID-19 infections per day possible in US

Francis Collins, the outgoing National Institutes of Health director, warned on Sunday that the U.S. could clock 1 million COVID-19 infections per day if Americans don’t take coronavirus precautions.

The retiring NIH director, whose last day was Sunday, cautioned on NPR’s “Weekend Edition” that the highly transmissible omicron variant could still spark millions of cases in the U.S., even if it ends up causing milder disease. 

“Even if it has a somewhat lower risk of severity, we could be having a million cases a day if we’re not really attentive to all of those mitigation strategies,” he said. “And you know a small fraction of a big number is still a really big number.”

“I don’t know that we’ll hit that but there are certainly projections that say that could happen with a virus that seems to doubling most places where it’s been every two to four days,” he added.

While at least 43 states have detected the omicron strain, scientists say the current increases in cases, hospitalizations and deaths can be attributed to the delta variant, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates makes up almost 97 percent of all U.S. COVID-19 cases. 

Increased spread of the omicron variant with 57 different mutations could further strain U.S. testing capacity and hospitals, experts have said. 

Collins said he worries “a lot” about the stressed health care system and the possibility of temporarily losing health care workers who catch the virus.   

“I know people are tired of this,” he said. “I’m tired of it too, believe me. But the virus is not tired of us.”

The CDC considers a majority of counties in the U.S. to have high and substantial transmission ahead of the holiday weekend.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Delta Delta variant omicron omicron strain Omicron variant

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