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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.