Biden Says Vaccinated Can Safely Celebrate Holidays as Omicron Sweeps Nation
The current trajectory of the nearly two-year-long pandemic is different from what Americans saw in March 2020, when the coronavirus strengthened its grip across the country.
Data are now showing that the new and highly mutated Omicron coronavirus variant has raced past other variants to become the dominant version of the coronavirus in the United States.
The variant was first detected in South Africa only about a month ago. Now, it accounts for 73 percent of all new coronavirus infections. The figure represents a nearly six-fold increase in only one week, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Despite the fast-rising cases seen here in the United States and across much of the world, President Joe Biden on Tuesday contended that Americans who are fully vaccinated can safely celebrate the holidays.
“I know some Americans are wondering if you can safely celebrate the holidays with your family and friends,” Biden said in a White House speech.
“The answer is, yes you can if you and those you celebrate with are vaccinated, particularly if you’ve gotten your booster shot,” he continued.
Biden emphasized throughout his speech that the current trajectory of the nearly two-year-long pandemic is different from what Americans saw in March 2020, when the coronavirus strengthened its grip across the country.
“The other question folks are asking is, ‘Are we going back to March 2020?’” he said. “The answer is absolutely no. No.”
Biden warned Americans who remain unvaccinated that they have reason to worry about Omicron.
“You’re at high risk of getting sick, and if you get sick, you’re likely to spread it to others, including families and friends,” he said.
“Omicron is serious and potentially deadly business for unvaccinated people. . . . All these people who have not been vaccinated, you have an obligation to yourselves, to your family and quite frankly—I know I’m going to get criticized for this—to your country. Get vaccinated now, it’s free,” he added.
Cancel Holiday Plans
Meanwhile, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization’s director-general, has called for some holiday gatherings to be canceled amid Omicron’s spread.
“All of us are sick of this pandemic,” Tedros said during a press conference on Monday. “All of us want to spend time with friends and family. All of us want to get back to normal. The fastest way to do this is for all of us, leaders and individuals, to make the difficult decisions that must be made to protect ourselves and others.”
“An event canceled is better than a life canceled,” he continued. “It is better to cancel now and celebrate later than to celebrate now and grieve later.”
On Monday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told CNBC that getting a booster shot is the right choice for most Americans.
Omicron has “over fifty mutations and because of those mutations, just being vaccinated with two doses may not be enough” ahead of the holidays, she said.
Walensky added that the agency is “examining” its definition of fully vaccinated, which currently means a two-dose regimen of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci last week confirmed on CNBC that such a redefinition is certainly “on the table.”
“There’s no doubt that optimum vaccination is with a booster,” he said.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.