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New COVID Variant ‘Cause for Concern, Not Panic,’ Biden says

November 29, 2021

The latest COVID-19 variant is “a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” President Joe Biden said today.

While the U.S. has not reported any cases of the Omicron variant, public health leaders are working to understand the new strain and prepare for the first cases to be reported here.

“Sooner or later, we’re going to see cases of this new variant here in the United States,” President Joe Biden said today. “We’ll have to face this new threat, just as we’ve faced those that have come before it.”

The variant, first reported in South Africa, also has been identified in the United Kingdom and Canada, among other nations. Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified Omicron as a “variant of concern” due to the appearance of a number of concerning mutations.

Preliminary evidence suggests the variant may present an increased risk for reinfection, the WHO said, but work is underway to understand the variant, its transmissibility, and the protection of currently available vaccines against the strain.

President Biden highlighted three key messages during the briefing:

  • Concern, not panic:  The world’s public health leaders are learning more about the variant and will use all the available tools to limit its spread
  • Vaccine: benefits:  Getting fully vaccinated and receiving the COVID-19 booster shot help limit the spread of COVID-19. Scientists are closely reviewing the new variant to understand the protection offered by the available vaccines, but getting vaccinated will help address the overall spread of COVID-19 in our communities
  • Research and development:  The White House is making preparations, if needed, to develop a vaccine or booster against the new variant. Researchers should know more in a matter of weeks, Biden said

On Thursday, the White House is planning to release a detailed plan to fight COVID-19 this winter, President Biden said. He said the U.S. is in a different place compared to last December, when about 1 percent of American adults were fully vaccinated.

About 71 percent of American adults are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Pennsylvania, 68.9 percent of people 18 and older are fully vaccinated, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) said today.

The Delta variant remains the overwhelming majority of cases in Pennsylvania and across the nation. During the five-day Thanksgiving holiday, a daily average of 5,325 new COVID-19 cases were reported, the DOH said.

HAP will continue to monitor the latest COVID-19 developments and provide updates to members and the general public.

For more information, contact Robert Shipp III, PhD, BSN, RN, NEA-BC, HAP’s vice president, population health and clinical affairs.