President Joe Biden urged Americans to get a booster shot to increase their immunity against COVID-19. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden sought to reassure Americans on Monday about the latest COVID-19 variant, describing it as “a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.”
Biden did not announce any new travel restrictions or other federal actions during his brief remarks from the White House.
Instead, he urged Americans to get a booster shot to increase their immunity against COVID-19 – and to be patient while scientists gather more data on what exactly the new omicron variant will mean.
“We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, the best scientists, and we’re learning more every single day,” Biden said. “We’ll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed, not chaos and confusion.”
New Hampshire public health officials are monitoring for the presence of the new variant in the state and urged residents to continue following safety protocols.
“We take all new variants of concern seriously, as they can potentially lead to increased community transmission and more cases of COVID-19,” said Jake Leon, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Services.
“People who are traveling internationally should review CDC travel recommendations for any changes in testing or quarantining requirements. Prevention strategies continue to be our best tool against any variant of COVID-19, which include vaccination for anyone 5 and older, booster doses for those who are eligible, mask wearing in public indoor settings, physical distancing, and frequent hand-washing,” he said.
As of Monday, the state was continuing to see record levels of new infections and hospitalizations. According to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, there has been an average of 1,027 new cases a day, and 367 people were hospitalized, a number state officials have warned could mean delays for all patients, including those without COVID-19. Just over 11 percent of regular hospital beds and 6.7 percent of ICU beds were available Monday.
The White House already had restricted travel from eight nations, including South Africa, which first identified the new variant.
Other countries also have restricted travel as cases involving the new variant have been detected in a growing number of countries, including Canada and parts of Europe.
So far, U.S. public health officials say they believe the current COVID-19 vaccines will provide protection against the new variant. But it likely will take several weeks to gather data on how the mutations in the new variant make it easier to transmit or cause more serious disease.
Biden said his administration will share the information it gathers “candidly and promptly.” He also said that top health officials are working with the three authorized vaccine manufacturers to ensure they are preparing in case they need to tweak their products to adapt to the variant.
The president also said he will be announcing on Thursday a detailed strategy for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the winter, including more widespread vaccinations, boosters, and testing.
“We have moved forward in the face of the Delta variant,” Biden said, referencing the variant that caused a surge in infections over the summer. “And we move forward now in the face of the omicron variant as well.”
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