WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - It is extremely unlikely that a person can be reinfected with Omicron, at least in the short term, President Joe Biden's top medical adviser said, as the US begins to see sharp declines in cases in areas hit earliest by the variant.
"There are reinfections, but... if you mounted a good immune response - at least over a period of several months - it is extremely unlikely that you will be reinfected with the same variant," Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a press briefing on Friday (Jan 21).
Cases of reinfection have typically been in people who fell ill with one variant and then later contracted a different variant, Dr Fauci added.
But he said the United States must prepare for a "worst-case scenario" in which a new variant emerges that eludes protection conferred by both vaccines and prior infection.
"I hope that doesn't happen," he said. "I can't give you the statistics of what the chance of that (happening), but we have to be prepared for it."
There have, meanwhile, been "steep declines" in coronavirus cases across the north-east, including in New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut, said Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
The seven-day average of new US cases is about 750,000 a day, down 5 per cent from the week prior, Dr Walensky said. Hospitalisations remain flat but near all-time highs.
Dr Walensky, however, stressed that surges started at different times in different regions, and that the US "may continue to see high case counts in some areas of the country in the days and weeks ahead".
She also warned cities and states against quickly relaxing measures like mask mandates.
"Cases are still well higher than the threshold to start thinking about taking off some of those measures," she said.
The US this week opened a website for people to request deliveries of at-home tests purchased by the government.
Deliveries began on Friday, and millions of orders have already been fulfilled, said White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients.
The government has received tens of millions of test kits to ship out, and will further detail the figures next week, including how many people have ordered the tests so far, he said.