President Joe Biden warned Thursday of “a winter of severe illness and death” for unvaccinated Americans amid increasing Omicron cases.
The Omicron variant is believed to be more transmissible but may spark less severe illnesses than previous coronavirus variants. First identified by South Africa in November, the variant sparked panic, and countries – including the U.S. – began reimplementing travel restrictions for parts of the world.
Weeks later, officials are still learning more about Omicron, though Biden’s chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci recently noted it’s “almost certainly” less severe than Delta. The Delta variant remains dominant in the U.S., but data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate Omicron is beginning to account for more cases, Stat News reported.
Despite Fauci’s belief that Omicron may be less severe than the Delta variant, Biden issued a warning for unvaccinated Americans on Thursday after a briefing with his coronavirus team. The president said the new variant isn’t “spreading as fast as it would have,” touting the “steps we have taken,” but still warned that it’s “spreading” and will “increase.” (RELATED: ‘A Matter Of When, Not If’: Fauci Says Definition Of Fully Vaccinated Will Change)
“For the unvaccinated: We are looking at a winter of severe illness and death … for themselves, their family and the hospital they’ll soon overwhelm,” Biden declared.
Biden on the Covid situation: “For the unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death.” pic.twitter.com/xJHnYkNtMq
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 16, 2021
“But there’s good news: If you’re vaccinated and you have your booster shot, you’re protected from severe illness and death, period,” the president said, going on to reiterate his support for the vaccine and booster.
The president’s warning of “a winter of severe illness and death” follows news from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which announced Wednesday that there haven’t been any known deaths or serious cases of COVID-19 in Europe due to the Omicron variant.
Biden and the administration as a whole have pushed for vaccinated Americans to get the booster and for unvaccinated Americans to get the shot, particularly in light of the Omicron variant. Biden called it “critically important” to get vaccinated and said Omicron will “spread much more rapidly at the beginning of the year.”
“The only real protection is to get your shots,” Biden added.
There were originally concerns of decreased effectiveness with current COVID-19 vaccines when dealing with Omicron. Fauci calmed these fears on Wednesday, confirming that the booster shot currently in use is enough.