Dec. 21, 2021 — With the Omicron variant of the coronavirus blazing throughout the US, President Joe Biden provided reassurance on Tuesday to Individuals who’ve adopted public well being steerage to get vaccinated and boosted, and delivered a stark warning to those that haven’t.
“As a result of Omicron spreads so simply, we’ll see some absolutely vaccinated folks get COVID. Probably in giant numbers,” the president mentioned. “These circumstances are extremely unlikely to result in severe sickness. Vaccinated individuals who get COVID could get sick, however they’re shielded from extreme sickness and loss of life.”
However he mentioned the nation was not again to sq. one with COVID-19.
“This isn’t March of 2020,” he mentioned.
Along with the warning, Biden outlined plans to assist the nation reply to Omicron, together with the acquisition of 500 million speedy checks for at-home use and army assist for confused hospitals.
He mentioned vaccinated folks ought to maintain their plans to have a good time the vacations, particularly if celebrating with different vaccinated folks.
However he cautioned the estimated 40 million eligible Individuals who stay unvaccinated.
“Omicron is severe and maybe lethal enterprise for unvaccinated folks,” Biden mentioned. “A few of you’ll get very sick.”
He mentioned hospitals would proceed to be dangerously confused, each by way of gear and staffing.
To assist ease staffing shortages, Biden mentioned he had deployed six emergency response groups together with clinic personnel and paramedics to 6 states: Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
He can even ship 1,000 army docs and nurses to overwhelmed services to ease calls for. He’s additionally activating the Federal Emergency Administration Company and the Nationwide Response Coordination Middle to assist with planning and logistics. He mentioned crucial provides like ventilators, masks, robes, and gloves would even be provided.
Hospital advocates applauded the assistance.
“The Biden Administration’s announcement right now to deploy extra medical personnel to COVID-burdened hospitals and stand-up new mass vaccination websites throughout the nation will assist alleviate a number of the burden on the nation’s already overwhelmed well being care workforce,” mentioned Gerald Harmon, MD, president of the American Medical Affiliation.
Harmon urged all who have been eligible to get vaccinated and boosted to additional ease the pressure.
“We proceed to induce the Administration to make use of all out there instruments at their disposal and never depart any assets or assist on the sidelines,” Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Affiliation, mentioned in a written assertion.
Week to week, circumstances of COVID-19 brought on by the Omicron variant have soared. Estimates by the CDC present Omicron inflicting roughly 13% of circumstances within the week ending Dec. 11. By Tuesday, Omicron was inflicting about 74% of circumstances.
“I’ve labored in infectious illness for 30 years. I’ve NEVER seen something just like the pace of Omicron,” former CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, posted on Twitter.
For the unique coronavirus, the fundamental reproductive charge — the typical variety of folks contaminated as contacts of a single case — was 2.5. For the Delta variant, that quantity rose to round 7. The fundamental reproductive charge of Omicron may be as high as 10.
On Tuesday, Biden acknowledged the nation was caught off guard.
“I don’t suppose anyone anticipated that this was going to be as quickly spreading because it did,” he mentioned.
He acknowledged that checks and testing providers have been in brief provide.
“Abruptly, it was like everyone rushed to the counter. It was an enormous, massive rush,” he mentioned.
He promised extra checks could be on the best way. He mentioned new testing websites could be opened in areas of excessive demand like New York Metropolis, the place folks have been ready in line for hours to get examined.
Biden introduced he would proceed to make use of the Protection Manufacturing Act to ease the availability crunch for COVID-19 checks, buying 500 million checks that might be despatched to Individuals without cost by way of a brand new web site, which hasn’t but been launched.
A lot of the particulars of who can get the free checks, and what number of they will get at a time, are nonetheless being labored out, White Home press secretary Jen Psaki mentioned in a briefing earlier than the president’s speech.
Public coverage specialists cheered the announcement.
“The U.S. has been a bit of bit behind the curve in phrases not simply getting the checks out, however shifting the testing expertise alongside in comparison with European international locations,” mentioned Jeffrey Levi, PhD, a professor of well being coverage and administration at George Washington College’s Milken College of Public Well being.
The five hundred million extra checks that have been introduced Tuesday are an additional step, past the promise made in Biden’s winter plan, to have non-public insurers cowl the prices of at-home checks.
“This appears like a serious step ahead,” mentioned Levi. “It stays to be seen whether or not that manufacturing capability might be met.”