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Omicron seems to cause milder illness, Fauci says, as study shows evasion of antibodies

People wait in line at a vaccination site in D.C. on Nov. 29. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)
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Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said Tuesday that the omicron variant appears to cause less severe illness — although he cautioned that the available data remains preliminary and anecdotal.

But emerging evidence suggests it is more transmissible than previous variants, Fauci said. Meanwhile, a new laboratory study in South Africa shows the omicron variant has significant but not total ability to evade virus-fighting antibodies generated by the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The omicron variant has now been detected in patients in 21 U.S. states, as total reported coronavirus cases in the United States marches toward 50 million. The country has tallied more than 787,000 covid-19 deaths.

Here’s what to know

  • Pfizer could have a new vaccine targeted at the omicron variant of the coronavirus in March if needed, the company’s CEO said Tuesday.
  • The U.S. is putting an additional $400 million toward expanding worldwide vaccine access and resources in coronavirus hot spots.
  • A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked a Biden administration requirement that federal contractors get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
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Here's what to know:

Pfizer could have a new vaccine targeted at the omicron variant of the coronavirus in March if needed, the company’s CEO said Tuesday.
The U.S. is putting an additional $400 million toward expanding worldwide vaccine access and resources in coronavirus hot spots.
A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked a Biden administration requirement that federal contractors get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

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Coronavirus: What you need to know

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot designed to target both the original virus and the omicron variant. Here’s some guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

Variants: Instead of a single new Greek letter variant, a group of immune-evading omicron spinoffs are popping up all over the world. Any dominant variant will likely knock out monoclonal antibodies, targeted drugs that can be used as a treatment or to protect immunocompromised people.

Tripledemic: Hospitals are overwhelmed by a combination of respiratory illnesses, staffing shortages and nursing home closures. And experts believe the problem will deteriorate further in coming months. Here’s how to tell the difference between RSV, the flu and covid-19.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.

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