President Joe Biden cautioned Americans not to panic as Omicron, the latest COVID-19 variant, threatens to further stall recovery from the nearly two-year-old pandemic.
The president called the variant a cause for concern but panic.
“We have the best vaccine in the world. The best medicines, the best scientists, and we’re learning more every single day,” President Biden said. “And we’ll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed. Not chaos and confusion. Look, we’re going to fight and beat this new variant as well.”
The White House earlier announced that the U.S. would restrict travel from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Malawi, and Mozambique.
Officials at the World Health Organization (WHO) said the Omicron coronavirus variant on Monday carried a “very high risk of infection surges.”
The WHO reportedly advised its 194 member nations that any infection surge could have severe consequences but said no deaths had yet been linked to the new variant.
“Omicron has an unprecedented number of spike mutations, some of which are concerning for their potential impact on the trajectory of the pandemic,” the organization noted in a news release. “The overall global risk related to the new variant of concern Omicron is assessed as very high,” WHO officials stated.
South African officials reportedly first detected the new variant a week ago in Botswana, with cases confirmed in Germany, Japan, Canada, and Belgium.
The President’s medical team believes that existing vaccines will provide some level of protection against severe illness from Omicron, and individuals who have gotten boosters have even stronger protection.
“As such, we urge all adults to get their booster shots and to get themselves and their kids vaccinated, if they haven’t already, said White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients.
“This new variant is cause for continued vigilance, not panic. We know what it takes to limit the spread of COVID: Get vaccinated, get boosted, and take public health measures like masking and distancing.
“We will remain steadfast in our fight against this virus. And we will continue to be guided by the science and proven public health measures to keep people safe.”
UPDATE 12/3/21 5:59 PM
President Joe Biden on Thursday, December 2, announced new actions to combat COVID-19 as the United States heads into the winter months and with the emergence of a new variant, Omicron.
“The United States has come far in its fight against the virus and is more prepared than ever to deal with the challenges of COVID-19,” the President said in a statement.
“We have the public health tools we need to continue to fight this virus without shutting down our schools and businesses. As we head into winter, today, the President will announce actions to provide additional protection to Americans and fight the Omicron and Delta variants, while keeping our economy growing.
According to a document posted to the White House’s website, the plan includes:
- Boosters for All Adults
- Vaccinations to Protect Our Kids and Keep Our Schools Open
- Expanding Free At-Home Testing for Americans
- Stronger Public Health Protocols for Safe International Travel
- Protections in Workplaces to Keep Our Economy Open
- Rapid Response Teams to Help Battle Rising Cases
- Supplying Treatment Pills to Help Prevent Hospitalizations and Death
- Continued Commitment to Global Vaccination Efforts
- Steps to Ensure We Are Prepared for All Scenarios
After the World Health Organization (WHO) named the Omicron variant as a Variant of Concern last week, the White House said the President took immediate steps to restrict travel from the most impacted countries in order to give the U.S. time to learn more about the variant and prepare.
“We have more tools today to fight the Omicron variant than we have had to fight previous variants, including Delta,” the President stated.
Nearly 60 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, booster shots are authorized for all adults, and a vaccine is authorized for kids aged 5 and older.
“The U.S. is leading the world in vaccinating children, and millions of Americans have already gotten their boosters. And the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing additional antiviral treatments for when people do get sick,” the White House noted in a fact sheet.
“Today’s actions will ensure we are using these tools as effectively as possible to protect the American people against this variant and to continue to battle the Delta variant during the winter months when viruses tend to thrive. These actions will help keep our economy growing and keep Americans safe from severe COVID-19,” the White House said.