The Star Democrat

Biden urges concern but not alarm in US as omicron rises

- BY ZEKE MILLER

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden urged concern but not alarm Tuesday as the United States set records for daily reported COVID-19 cases and his administra­tion struggled to ease concerns about testing shortages, school closures and other disruption­s caused by the omicron variant.

In remarks before a meeting with his COVID-19 response team at the White House, Biden aimed to convey his administra­tion’s urgency in addressing omicron and convince wary Americans that the current situation bears little resemblanc­e to the onset of the pandemic or last year’s deadly winter. The president emphasized that vaccines, booster shots and therapeuti­c drugs have lessened the danger for the overwhelmi­ng majority of Americans who are fully vaccinated.

“You can still get COVID, but it’s highly unlikely, very unlikely, that you’ll become seriously ill,” Biden said of vaccinated people.

“There’s no excuse, there’s no excuse for anyone being unvaccinat­ed,” he added. “This continues to be a pandemic of the unvaccinat­ed.” He also encouraged Americans, including newly eligible teenagers 12 to 15, to get a booster dose of the vaccines for maximum protection.

Compared with last year, more Americans are employed, most kids are in classrooms, and instances of death and serious illness are down — precipitou­sly so among the vaccinated.

“We’re in a very different place than we were a year ago,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki when asked if the country had lost control of the virus.

Still, over the past several weeks Americans have seen dire warnings about hospitals reaching capacity amid staffing shortages, thousands of holiday flight cancellati­ons in part because crews were ill or in quarantine, and intermitte­nt reports of school closures because of the more-transmissi­ble variant.

 ?? AP PHOTO/ANDREW HARNIK ?? President Joe Biden speaks as he meets with the White House COVID-19 Response Team on the latest developmen­ts related to the Omicron variant in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House Campus in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022.
AP PHOTO/ANDREW HARNIK President Joe Biden speaks as he meets with the White House COVID-19 Response Team on the latest developmen­ts related to the Omicron variant in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House Campus in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022.

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