Omicron: Biden says new COVID-19 variant ‘not a cause for panic
President Joe Biden urged Americans to get vaccinated as he discussed the new variant omicron.
Associated Press, USA TODAY
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed on Monday recommended that all adults get a COVID-19 booster shot following the emergence of the new omicron variant.
Previously, the CDC advised people over 50 or living in a long-term care facility “should” get a booster, while all other adults “may” get boosters at least six months after their previous shots. Now all adults should get a booster, the CDC said.
Omicron, discovered last week in South Africa, could fuel a global surge of COVID-19 cases with “severe consequences,” the World Health Organization said.
The WHO said there is currently no information to suggest symptoms connected with omicron differ from those associated with other variants. No deaths linked to the omicron variant have been reported, the WHO added. However, it said preliminary evidence raises the possibility the variant has mutations that could help it both evade an immune-system response and make it more transmissible.
President Joe Biden addressed the variant’s threat Monday, again urging Americans to get vaccinated and booster shots.
“This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” Biden said. “We have more tools to fight the variant than we have ever had before.”
About 20% of fully-vaccinated individuals have received a booster shot, according to CDC data.
Also in the news:
►Pfizer and BioNTech are expected to ask the Food and Drug Administration to authorize its booster shot for 16- and 17-year-olds in the next few days, The Washington Post reported.
► Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the omicron variant may worsen supply-chain disruptions and inflation in a testimony released Monday.
📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 48 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 778,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 262 million cases and 5.2 million deaths. Nearly 196 million Americans — roughly 59.3% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘What we’re reading: How serious is omicron? Is it more transmissible than delta? It will take weeks to understand COVID-19 variant.
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Most federal workers who failed to meet the Nov. 22 deadline to get vaccinated against the coronavirus will not risk being suspended or losing their jobs until next year, the Biden administration said in enforcement guidance Monday.
Instead, managers will continue “with robust education and counseling efforts through this holiday season as the first step in an enforcement process,” according to the guidance.
Ninety-two percent of federal workers received at least one dose of the vaccine by the deadline, the administration announced last week. The rest have either not complied with the president’s mandate or asked to be exempted for religious or medical reasons.
While some agencies may need to accelerate enforcement if there are workplace safety issues or performance problems, agencies were encouraged not to take actions beyond education, counseling or, at most, a letter of reprimand until January.
The next step after a letter is suspension for a period of 14 days or less. Workers who remain unvaccinated who have not received an exemption can ultimately be dismissed.
— Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY
Members of the Oklahoma National Guard must get vaccinated against COVID-19 regardless of their duty status or personal beliefs, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday.
The Oklahoma governor sent a letter to the defense secretary earlier this month requesting that members of the Oklahoma National Guard be exempted from the Defense Department’s vaccination mandate, which covers active-duty personnel, Guard, Reserves and civilian workers.
Austin rejected the governor’s proposal, and told him in a letter that guard members who don’t get vaccinated may be barred from participating in drills and training, and their status in the Guard could be jeopardized.
“To maintain a healthy and ready military force capable of protecting the American people, the immediate vaccination against COVID-19 is an essential military readiness requirement for all components and units of the military, including the Oklahoma National Guard,” Austin said in a letter to Stitt dated Monday.
— Chris Casteel, The Oklahoman
Contributing: The Associated Press