(Trends Wide) — There was a revealing moment during President Joe Biden’s remarks on the new omicron variant of the coronavirus this Monday at the White House. He’s willing to do everything he can to get Americans vaccinated and politely ask them to put on the mask, but he’s not likely to go the way of some European leaders and push for new lockdowns.
Biden tried to strike a balance, saying “this variant is cause for concern, not panic.”
He raised several points to emphasize:
- We don’t know everything we need to know about omicron. This is not the time to panic over a new variant, which was first identified in South Africa. Nor is this the time to ignore it.
- Ómicron is going to arrive in the United States no matter what. The virus will reach the country regardless of the new travel restrictions that went into effect on Monday. These, Biden said, have been put in place to slow the spread of the variant and allow the US to prepare, not to prevent it from entering the country. Some experts believe that it is already here.
- Vaccines. Vaccines. Vaccines. The best way to protect yourself is through vaccination and booster doses.
- Wear masks in public places even if you are vaccinated. Biden asked people to start wearing masks in public places, regardless of their vaccination status, to help stop the spread of COVID-19. In the United Kingdom, where cases of omicron have been detected, masks are again required in shops.
- You have to be vigilant. The federal government is working with drug manufacturers in the event that an update to vaccination recommendations is necessary, although Biden said additional measures are likely not necessary.
This last point is especially interesting: that Biden mentions the possibility of updating vaccination protocols. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday reinforced its recommendation to give booster doses specifically because of the omicron variant. Instead of saying that all vaccinated people over the age of 18 “can” get a booster, the CDC now says that everyone “should.”
So what was the revealing moment in Biden’s speech?
The revealing moment came after the president’s remarks, when he was asked to explain his comment on an upcoming plan to deal with omicron, which he wrongly pronounced as “omnicron.”
Biden said: “On Thursday, I will present a detailed strategy outlining how we are going to fight COVID-19 this winter. Not with closures or lockdowns, but with more extensive vaccinations, boosters, testing and more.”
A reporter asked Biden why the lockdowns are out.
“If people are vaccinated and wear a mask, there is no need for confinement,” he said.
This comment was true and confusing at the same time, because what we have learned in recent months is that many Americans are not going to get vaccinated or wear a mask.
However, what I heard from Biden’s response is that no matter how a new variant spreads: the federal government is not going to seek a political fight over the lockdowns. The country went through the delta wave this summer and fall, and many Americans ended up rejecting the idea of masks in schools or the requirements to be vaccinated at work.
Biden’s response differs from that in some parts of Europe, where some cities and countries have reverted to some form of lockdown as COVID-19 cases and deaths increase due to the delta variant. The Washington Post visited a semi-confined city in Belgium and reported closures in Slovakia and Austria and a curfew in the Netherlands. Western European countries, so far, have generally had fewer COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people than the United States, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
New conspiracy theory
Texas Representative Ronny Jackson – a former White House physician – is among those spreading the silly idea that Democrats and others are raising concerns about omicron to help them politically before the November 2022 election. Please now. do not follow.
Latest News on Vaccination in the USA
The United States has yet to reach 60% of the fully vaccinated population, according to CDC data. Perhaps vaccinating children ages 5 to 11 will raise that number as they receive their second doses.
But the evolution of vaccine efforts and requirements is highly changing.
Punishments are delayed
The Biden administration told some federal agencies that they could delay punishment for federal workers who have not been vaccinated.
Most federal workers were supposed to be vaccinated by Nov. 22, and 92% have received at least a first dose of the covid-19 vaccine. Some workers have applied for or been granted an exemption, bringing 96.5% of federal workers to meet the standard, according to the Office of Management and Budget.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer on Monday rejected a request to block Mass General Brigham Hospital’s vaccination requirement for the 80,000 employees of the Massachusetts hospital system.
Vaccination orders, suspended
Furthermore, a federal judge in Missouri partially blocked the Biden administration’s vaccination requirements for certain healthcare workers. The order only affects the 10 states that filed the case.
This vaccination requirement, which was due to take effect on December 6 in most parts of the country, came from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The judge, in stopping the requirement, gave his own medical advice when he said that the “public would suffer little or no harm if the ‘status quo’ were maintained through litigation in this case.”
Possible staff shortages were noted as a concern, especially among health care providers in rural areas.
When will we know if the vaccines work against omicron?
Probably in the next two weeks, Dr. Peter Hotez told Trends Wide’s Jim Acosta over the weekend, explaining how scientists can test vaccines against the variants.
How does omicron travel the world?
In Trends Wide’s top international report on the omicron variant, I noted that cases in the Netherlands have been traced back to people traveling from South Africa. Cases in Canada have been traced to people traveling from Nigeria. It has already gone around the world.
Proof of vaccination is being required
Since mid-November, proof of vaccination is required for many public activities in Los Angeles, including eating inside a restaurant. But on Monday, measures to control its application went into effect. Clients must show proof of complete vaccination against COVID-19.
Removing the vaccination requirements
Compare Los Angeles to Disney World in Florida, which last week suspended its vaccination requirement for employees in order to comply with Florida’s new vaccine requirements law.
Bad news to do the right thing
There is a sad note of irony for a country like South Africa, where health authorities tracked down the omicron variant and alerted the world. His good behavior is being punished with travel restrictions.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the travel ban on South Africa and seven other African countries “is not to punish” but to “protect.”
The United States has donated nearly 8 million doses of vaccines to South Africa, and Psaki said the country rejected the offer of more.