Breanna Reeves |
On December 21st, President Biden gave a speech regarding the current state of the pandemic and addressed growing concerns about Omicron as cases rise throughout the nation.
“We should all be concerned about Omicron, but not panicked,” said President Biden during the briefing. “If you’re fully vaccinated, and especially if you got your booster shot, you are highly protected. And if you’re unvaccinated, you’re at higher risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19, getting hospitalized, and even dying.”
On December 20th, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH) and Chief Medical Adviser to President Biden, discussed the pandemic and the increased presence of the Omicron variant in the U.S as part of the National Press Club’s Headliners Virtual Newsmaker series.
During the livestream, Dr. Fauci presented facts regarding the transmission of COVID-19 variants and explained what the public needs to know about the way in which the Omicron variant differs from the previous strains.
“We were in a late summer surge of 2021, came down, but to a baseline that was unacceptably high. And over the past several weeks, beginning in the end of October and the beginning of November, we are now on an upsurge of Delta,” said Dr. Fauci during the livestream. “We have not yet seen the full impact of the very ominous Omicron variant.”
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Monday that 72.3 percent of the U.S. cases monitored between December 12 and December 18 were identified as the Omicron variant and 26.6 percent were identified as the Delta variant.
Medical and health experts warn that in the next few months, hospitals will see an increase in patients and in deaths due to winter surges. The U.S. death toll recently surpassed 800,000 and 50 million COVID-19 cases.
Omicron has been described by some medical experts and epidemiologists as “immune evasive,” which refers to the way a virus can mutate in a way that allows it to evade detection by antibodies that are normally produced in response to a virus in the body. More so than Delta, Omicron has been identified as being more infectious and highly transmissible.
According to Dr. Fauci and preliminary clinical studies, the Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine has a lower effectiveness rate against symptomatic disease with the Omicron variant compared to the Delta variant, but the effectiveness rate increases to 75 percent after a booster dose.
“If there is one success story associated with this outbreak, it’s the development of safe and highly effective vaccines in an unprecedented short period of time,” said Dr. Fauci. “In fact, this has prompted Science magazine to deem the development of COVID-19 vaccines as the science breakthrough of the year among all scientific accomplishments in that year.”
Medical experts and epidemiologists recommend that the public protect itself by doing the following, especially during the winter surge when COVID-19 cases are increasing:
- Get vaccinated and get booster shots (if eligible).
- Get tested using at-home tests or get testing at COVID-19 testing sites.
- Continue to wear masks and seek more protective face coverings such as N95 respirators and KN95 masks.
- Do activities outdoors if able and if not, use ventilation and air filtration systems.
As more data is gathered regarding the spread of Omicron, Dr. Fauci explained that the “end game” for 2022 and beyond will be focused on control regarding COVID-19.
“We’re focusing on control, namely, a level of infection that isn’t zero, but that with the combination of the vast majority of the population vaccinated and boosted, together with those who’ve recovered from infection and hopefully also boosted, that we will get a level of control that will be non-interfering with our lives, our economy and the kinds of things we would do, namely, to get back to some degree of normality,” said Dr. Fauci.