President Biden will give an update on the U.S. response to the Omicron variant on Monday, the White House said in a statement on Sunday evening, as top federal health officials urged unvaccinated Americans on get their shots and eligible adults to seek out boosters.
Appearing on morning talk shows on Sunday, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, cautioned Americans that the emergence of Omicron and the uncertainty that surrounds it are reminders that the pandemic is far from over.
While the variant has yet to be detected in the United States, maintaining vigilance and safeguarding public health through inoculations, masking indoors and distancing, remains critical, he said.
“I know, America, you’re really tired about hearing those things, but the virus is not tired of us,” Dr. Collins said. “And it’s shape-shifting itself.”
The White House said that President Biden met on Sunday with members of his Covid response team, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. With much still unknown about the Omicron variant, Dr. Fauci told the president that it would take approximately two more weeks to learn more about its transmissibility and severity, but said that “he continues to believe that existing vaccines are likely to provide a degree of protection against severe cases of Covid,” the White House said.
Dr. Collins stressed that inoculation remains the first line of defense, saying that there are “good reasons” to believe, based on previous variants, that current vaccines will provide sufficient protection.
“Please, Americans, if you’re one of those folks who’s sort of waiting to see, this would be a great time to sign up, get your booster,” Dr. Collins said on Fox. “Or if you haven’t been vaccinated already, get started.”
He also underlined other critical mitigation efforts, including indoor masking when around unvaccinated individuals and maintaining social distance, in slowing the spread.
Dr. Fauci delivered a similar message, sending a “clarion call” for vaccinations and boosters. It is inevitable that the variant, which has already been detected in several countries, will surface in the United States, Dr. Fauci said.
“The question is, will we be prepared for it?” Dr. Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday morning. “And the preparation that we have ongoing for what we’re doing now with the Delta variant just needs to be revved up.”
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