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Fauci: The U.S. is ‘almost in a transition period’ with COVID

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Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani details Dr. Anthony Fauci's addressing the latest COVID-19 strain, the Omicron BA.2 subvariant, changing health guidelines, and progress in the latest vaccines getting FDA approval.

Video Transcript

RACHELLE AKUFFO: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live, everyone. We're getting a COVID update now. As we know, the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron now the fastest moving cause of COVID-19 in the United States. For more on that, I want to bring in Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani, who had a chance to speak to Dr. Anthony Fauci about this. Anjalee, what can you tell us? ANJALEE KHEMLANI: That's right, Rachelle. So we know that, of course, the BA.2 is the dominant variant right now. But what we don't know is how much it really is going to impact the US. And that is something that Dr. Anthony Fauci and others are focused on right now. Here's what he had to say. ANTHONY FAUCI: Due to the fact that the infections are coming down somewhat, there's been a relaxation of many of the restrictions, not only here in the United States, but throughout the world. And as expected, when you have a virus like the sublineage of the Omicron, which is called BA.2, which has a transmission advantage over BA.1, which means it transmits more readily, then you naturally are going to see an uptick in cases. Some countries in Europe are seeing a very profound uptick that's actually resulting in increase in hospitalizations and deaths. Others like the UK are seeing an increase significantly in cases. But when we speak to our colleagues in the UK, they say it does not appear to be associated with a comparable increase in hospitalizations, certainly not in intensive care unit bed usage and not in the all-cause mortality in the country, at least at this point. So where we are right now is in almost a transition period where it continues to come down. The CDC has pulled back on some of the recommendations for indoor masking. And yet, we're in the next week or two, we will see soon whether we are going to see an increase. And if we do, how high is it going to go up, or would it just go up a bit and then just linger there, and still not get any serious increase in hospitalizations or death? So it's really a work in motion, a work in progress that we're going to have to see what happens. The thing we can do about it, though, is some severally important things. Number one, if you're not vaccinated, as we've said now for so long, get vaccinated, if you are fully vaccinated and you are eligible to get a third shot boost, if you've had a two-dose mRNA, definitely get that booster shot because we know that when you're dealing with Omicron, the third shot boost is absolutely critical to get optimal protection. ANJALEE KHEMLANI: So as you can hear, really an emphasis on that vaccine booster. We know that, of course, the individuals 15 over and certainly, immunocompromised individuals are now authorized for a fourth shot. And meanwhile, still lagging on that third dose, so really a point of focus for the administration as we continue to battle this pandemic. DAVE BRIGGS: Anjalee, the biggest question on the minds of Americans is probably regarding mask mandates. We know 10 airline CEOs asked the president to end the mask mandate aboard airplanes. And then 21 states attorneys general are now going after judges to get them to stop it. Did he have any comment about when those should come off? ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Well, we do know that is under discussion. Of course, we saw the deadline extend from March 18 to April 18. So the CDC is really heavily weighing that. He did hint that one of the key factors is going to be the surge that we're currently experiencing because the way that he phrased it was that community level infection is a factor in what goes into understanding mask guidance. And that's true, actually. If you look across the country of when the CDC has really implemented those guidelines, it's when infection gets high enough that a mask is a reasonable source of protection in addition to vaccines. BRAD SMITH: Anjalee, just additionally, while we have you, we've already seen the FDA move to approve for emergency use some of the additional booster shots, the second booster shot. And so with that in mind, what about the FDA full approval on some of the existing vaccines, even some of the oral antivirals and where Dr. Fauci thinks that all plays a role in perhaps this broader push towards herd immunity that we're still trying to reach? ANJALEE KHEMLANI: So we do already have two fully approved vaccines. Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna both got their full approvals earlier this year. Meanwhile, all the others, of course, in line for those approvals. And we also have to remember that the FDA has got its hands full with the kids' vaccines, which is, of course, the front and center right now for the administration, because that is still a segment of the population that remains unprotected. So that's something that we're still waiting to see for now. DAVE BRIGGS: Anjalee Khemlani, great stuff with Dr. Fauci. Looking forward to seeing that entire interview. Thank you, and have a great weekend.