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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki appeared to contradict Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical advisor to the president, on Thursday over the emergence of new coronavirus variants.
"I would say that nobody saw - knew that there would be the number of different variants,"
Psaki said. "Nobody knew exactly how transmissible they would be. We, of course, knew that there would be additional variants at some point coming. We didn't know what they would look like."
Fauci said earlier this week that health officials "definitely saw variants coming"
in response to comments made by Vice President Kamala Harris during a recent interview.
"We didn't see Delta coming. I think most scientists did not - upon whose advice and direction we have relied - didn't see Delta coming,"
Harris told the Los Angeles Times in an interview. "We didn't see Omicron coming. And that's the nature of what this, this awful virus has been, which as it turns out, has mutations and variants."
The Times reported:
President Biden celebrated "independence" from the virus in an upbeat July 4 speech, saying, "While the virus hasn't been vanquished, we know this: It no longer controls our lives. It no longer paralyzes our nation. And it's within our power to make sure it never does again."
At the time, some public health experts warned that his optimism was premature, given that the Delta variant was already a significant threat. Harris denied that the administration declared victory prematurely, or ever.
"We have not been victorious over it,"
Harris added. "I don't think that in any regard anyone can claim victory when, you know, there are 800,000 people who are dead because of this virus."
Fauci responded to Harris' remarks during an interview on Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
"We definitely saw variants coming,"
Fauci said. "What was not anticipated was the extent of the mutations in the amino acid substitutions in omicron, which was really unprecedented."
Fauci warned this week against going to large holiday gatherings. "There are many of these parties that have 30, 40, 50 people in which you do not know the vaccination status of individuals,"
Fauci said. "Those are the kind of functions in the context of Omicron that you do not want to go to."
When asked at the start of the week if he thought that there would be a point at which people did not need to wear masks on airplanes, Fauci said no.
"I don't think so,"
he said. "I think when you're dealing with a closed space, even though the filtration is good, that you want to go that extra step."
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