The nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is encouraging Americans to celebrate the holidays despite the rising concerns surrounding the Omicron variant in the U.S.

On Wednesday, the first case of the COVID Omicron variant was detected in the U.S., making it among more than 20 countries that have reported cases of Omicron infections since the strain was first detected in South Africa last week.

Speaking at a CNN Global Town Hall on Wednesday, Fauci said it was safe to gather with friends and family over the holidays, but cautioned that it should only be done among those who are vaccinated.

“Just as I said and I'll say it again, if you have a vaccinated situation, enjoy the holidays with your family in a family setting,” he said.

While much is still unknown about the Omicron variant, experts believe that the COVID strain is more transmissible and have urged people to get their vaccinations and booster doses in hopes that the shots will provide immunity from the virus strain.

“That's where we're hoping we'll see with the Omicron variant, that if you get your levels high enough, it'll spill over and get cross-protection against that variant,” Fauci said during the town hall meeting.

He added that it is unclear how frequently COVID booster shots will be needed, but he maintained that people should not wait to get their third dose.

Fauci continued, “The level of antibodies that rise and go up following a boost is much, much higher than the peak level that you get after your second dose of a two-dose vaccine.”

According to CNN, studies are being performed on the Omicron variant to understand its severity and transmissibility, with results expected in the coming weeks.

Dr Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci is pictured. AFP / MANDEL NGAN

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