“It’s here now and it’s spreading and it’s going to increase,” the president said about the omicron variant while meeting with his coronavirus response team. “For unvaccinated we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death if you’re unvaccinated for themselves, their families, and the hospitals they will soon overwhelm.”
“But, there’s good news,” Biden added. “If you’re vaccinated and have your booster shot you’re protected from severe illness and death.”
Biden’s warning comes almost a year into his presidency after repeating many times on the campaign trail that he was the candidate who would “shut down the virus” and blaming former President Trump for his “ineptitude” in slowing the spread.
The COVID vaccines were developed during Trump’s term under Operation Warp Speed, which he initiated.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday that she expected reports of omicron cases in the U.S. to increase in the coming days.
The “variant of concern” has been detected in at least 36 states and agency data based on national genomic sequencing analysis shows the omicron variant is estimated to represent around 3% of coronavirus cases in the U.S., including higher estimates in New York and New Jersey.
Some health officials have expressed reserved optimism that the coronavirus omicron strain could be a significant step in the pandemic’s transition to becoming endemic, with one expert calling initial studies “the ideal situation for a virus.”
Dr. Adam Koppel, the managing director of Bain Capital Life Sciences, told the Massachusetts High Technology panel on Tuesday that if the projections are true and omicron becomes the dominant global strain, it will “enable us to more quickly get to an endemic state as opposed to a pandemic state where we can live more regularly with the virus more similar to the flu than what COVID has looked like,” the Boston Herald reported.
Scientists studying the variant have stressed that there is still much to be learned about the new variant. They say they are troubled by its transmissibility and insist that we still do not have a clear picture as to why it appears less severe than, say, delta. It may be infecting younger, healthier individuals. Research from the University of Hong Kong seemed to support earlier studies in South Africa that found the variant highly contagious, but less severe.