President Biden today called the new Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus “a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” urging all eligible Americans to get vaccinated and all eligible adults to get a booster if they haven’t already. He also urged Americans to wear masks indoors in public settings.
“We’ll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed, not chaos and confusion,” he said during a briefing on the variant.
Biden said the Administration will share information “candidly and promptly” as it learns more about the variant; is working with Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to develop boosters if needed; and on Thursday will release a detailed strategy to fight COVID-19 this winter, which will not include shutdowns or lockdowns.
The World Health Organization Nov. 24 named Omicron a new variant of concern. The variant was first reported in South Africa. No cases have been identified in the U.S. to date. Biden has ordered additional air travel restrictions for travelers to the U.S. from South Africa and seven other countries in Africa, which take effect today.
Anthony Fauci, M.D., Biden’s chief medical advisor, expects it will take about two more weeks to have more definitive information on the variant’s transmissibility and severity, but continues to believe existing COVID-19 vaccines are likely to provide a degree of protection against severe cases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today strengthened its recommendation on booster doses for adults, saying “everyone ages 18 and older should get a booster shot either when they are 6 months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna series or 2 months after their initial J&J vaccine.”