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Biden Tells Americans New COVID Variant ‘Not Cause for Panic’

November 29, 2021 by Dan McCue
Biden Tells Americans New COVID Variant ‘Not Cause for Panic’
President Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 variant named omicron, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, in Washington, as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases listens. (Screen grab White House TV)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden addressed the nation Monday, calling the new omicron variant of the coronavirus a cause for concern “but not a cause for panic.”

Speaking in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, looked on, Biden acknowledged that it is inevitable the new variant will eventually reach the United States, but he also said the country is equipped to deal with it.

When omicron arrives, we will “face this new threat just as we’ve faced those that have come before it,” he said.

“Listen, we learn more about this new strain every single day,” the president added. “And when we learn more, we are going to share that information with the American people.”

Biden then reminded the press gathered before him and the millions likely listening at home that the best protection is still getting a full dose of one of the approved vaccines and a booster shot, if one is eligible.

“The best protection I know — and I know you’re tired of hearing me say this — is getting fully vaccinated and getting a booster shot,” Biden said.

“Most Americans are fully vaccinated but not yet boosted. If you’re 18 years old and vaccinated … before you do anything else today …  go get a booster shot. They’re free and available in 80,000 locations coast to coast. Do not wait. Go get your booster if it’s time for you to do so. And if you are not vaccinated, now’s the time to get vaccinated and take your children to be vaccinated. Every child aged five or older can get safe, effective vaccines now.”

The president said it will likely be weeks before Dr. Fauci and the White House COVID team knows everything they need to know about the new variant; they all agree that the currently available vaccines will continue to provide a degree of protection “against severe disease.”

“And for additional protection, wear a face mask when you are indoors or in public settings around other people,” he said.

The new variant poses the latest test to Biden’s efforts to contain the pandemic, mitigate its impacts on the economy and return a sense of normalcy to the U.S. during the holiday season. 

Among other things, he sought to assure the public on Monday that the White House is already in talks with vaccine manufacturers about contingency plans should an omicron outbreak occur, and potentially the development of a new booster shot to combat it.

But with each assurance, he emphasized that additional steps will only be taken “if needed.”

These include directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to speed the approval of new boosts — if needed — without cutting any corners and creating additional safety risks.

Biden last week moved to restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries in southern Africa, effective Monday, in a bid to give scientists time to learn more about the new variant, and for more Americans to get vaccinated before it hits the U.S. 

As omicron spreads across the globe, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday, “we will continue to assess what steps we need to take to protect the American people.”

Noting that the new variant, like earlier ones, sprang up overseas in areas with lower vaccination rates, Biden said it was both a moral imperative and in America’s self-interest to speed up global vaccinations. 

He noted that the U.S. has already donated more than 275 million doses — more than the rest of the world combined — and is on pace to deliver more than 1.1 billion doses globally by September 2022.

“Now we need the rest of the world to step up as well. We can’t let up until the world is vaccinated,” the president concluded.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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