President Joe Biden spoke to the American public on Monday morning to address the new Omicron variant of COVID-19, first discovered in South Africa. He touted his administration's quick action in shutting down travel from several African countries, but also advised the public not to panic.
"If people are vaccinated and wear their mask, there's no need for lockdown," Biden said in response to a reporter's questions about any impending societal shutdowns.
He used his platform on Monday, with Dr. Anthony Fauci hovering in the background, to outline three main points.
"First," Biden said, "this variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic." In support of his "don't panic" perspective, he spoke positively of the vaccines. Biden told everyone to get vaccinated, to get their kids vaccinated, and to also get a third shot of the vaccine in a booster shot.
"Second," he said, "best protection, I know you're tired of me saying this, the best protection against this variant or any of the variants out there, ones we've been dealing with already, is getting fully vaccinated and getting a booster shot."
"Please wear your masks when you're indoors in public settings around other people to protect you, to protest those around you," he said. Biden said masking is still essential, though he was spotted not masking in an area where indoor masks are mandated, over the holiday weekend.
In answer to a question from a reporter on masking, he said "I encourage everyone to wear a mask when they're indoors in a crowded circumstance like we are right now, and unless eating or speaking at a microphone."
Biden said that his administration would be announcing "a detailed strategy to outline how we're going to fight Covid this winter." He emphasized that there would be no new lockdowns, but a push for "more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing, and more!"
Additionally, the US, Biden said, has a "moral obligation" to vaccinate the world. He complained that so many fewer Americans were vaccinated by last Christmas, when vaccines were not fully available to the public, but that this year, it is widely available not just to those who are at-risk, but children as well, who have been at very limited risk of infection, hospitalization, or death.
As to Christmas, Biden said that "If you and your family are fully vaccinated, you can celebrate the holidays much more safely than where we were last year. That's a blessing none of us should take for granted. We're trying everything we can as far as tracking it from every single angel. That's what we have to keep doing."
"That's how we reopen our country. That's how we reopen our businesses. That's how we reopen our schools. That's how we cope with a pandemic," he said.
"Now we remain to be seen exactly what the elements of this particular strain are," Biden said. "But if, as, I hope, then it's not going to be fundamentally different than in the past."
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