Biden reassures vaccinated Americans they can celebrate the holidays together.
In a recent announcement to the American public, Democratic President Joe Biden offered reassurance to Americans who have followed the public health guidance of getting vaccinated and boosted as well as issued a warning to anyone who hasn’t.
“Because Omicron spreads so easily, we’ll see some fully vaccinated people get COVID. Potentially in large numbers,” the President said. “These cases are highly unlikely to lead to serious illness. Vaccinated people who get COVID may get ill, but they’re protected from severe illness and death. This is not March of 2020.”
Vaccinated people should keep their plans to celebrate the holidays – particularly if they plan to celebrate with other vaccinated people. Biden said, “I know some Americans are wondering if you can safely celebrate the holidays with your family and friends. the answer is, yes you can if you and those you celebrate with are vaccinated, particularly if you’ve gotten your booster shot.”
The President also shared a host of plans to respond to Omicron, including his plan to purchase 500 million at-home rapid tests and to solicit help from the military to see patients when hospitals are maxed out.
Biden spoke directly to the estimated 40 million eligible Americans who remain unvaccinated, saying, “Omicron is serious and perhaps deadly business for unvaccinated people. Some of you will get very sick.” He added that hospitals remain “dangerously” short-staffed and low on equipment. Biden said he had deployed six emergency response teams including clinic personnel and paramedics Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wisconsin. The President also sent 1000 military doctors and nurses to hospitals under duress to keep up demand.
Biden is setting up the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Response Coordination Center to help with planning and logistics, including making available supplies such as ventilators, masks, gowns, and gloves, to the American public.
“The Biden Administration’s announcement today to deploy additional medical personnel to COVID-burdened hospitals and stand-up new mass vaccination sites across the country will help alleviate some of the burden on the nation’s already overwhelmed health care workforce,” said Gerald Harmon, MD, president of the American Medical Association.
“We continue to urge the administration to use all available tools at their disposal and not leave any resources or support on the sidelines,” added Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that Omicron accounted for approximately “13% of cases in the week ending December 11.” Later in December, that estimate soared to approximately 74% of cases.
“I’ve worked in infectious disease for 30 years. I’ve NEVER seen anything like the speed of Omicron,” former CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, tweeted.
Biden echoed his sentiments, saying to the American public, “I don’t think anybody anticipated that this was going to be as rapidly spreading as it did. All of a sudden it was like everybody rushed to the counter. It was a big, big rush.”
“The U.S. has been a little bit behind the curve in terms [of] not just getting the tests out but moving the testing technology along compared to European countries,” said Jeffrey Levi, PhD, professor of health management and policy at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health in Washington, DC.
The 500,000 additional tests “feels like a major step forward,” he said.