With the Omicron variant of COVID-19 emerging as a worldwide concern, President Joe Biden is expected to address the nation about the new strain on Monday. Biden is not expected to announce any new restrictions to fight the virus just yet though, the Associated Press reports.
On Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" where he said Omicron's arrival in the U.S. is "inevitable."
Providing a hint into the administration's thinking, Fauci insisted that there was no need yet for alarm because little was known about either the infectiousness of Omicron or how the existing COVID vaccines protect against the virus.
Dr. Fauci tells @GStephanopoulos there are still no confirmed cases of the omicron variant in the U.S. but "it's inevitable that sooner or later it's going to spread widely." https://t.co/60xXCbQyWz pic.twitter.com/VaZPZU3lG0— Good Morning America (@GMA) November 29, 2021
“We should be concerned, and our concern should spur us to do the things that we know work,” said Fauci, referring to vaccines and other public health measures like masks or social distancing that have been encouraged since the start of the pandemic.
When asked about the possibility of new restrictions, Fauci dismissed the idea as premature.
“Let’s not be talking about lockdowns," he said.
After the new variant was first identified in Southern Africa, several countries moved to restrict travel from the region, including the U.S. On Saturday, the Biden administration ordered air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other nations as a "precautionary measure" that would come into effect on Monday.
Biden is expected to echo much of the message included in that earlier White House statement, particularly on vaccinations. In his earlier message, the president urged vaccinated Americans to receive their boosters at the earliest possible time and for the unvaccinated to get inoculated as well.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 74.1% of eligible Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to date.
The administration has made its vaccination drive the central focus of its COVID-19 strategy, but it has run into snags as its employer mandate has been stalled in federal court while many Americans continue to resist vaccination. Meanwhile, the previous Delta variant has continued to push cases upwards as winter approaches.