President Biden is racing to show the country that his administration is prepared for the Omicron variant as the World Health Organization warned there’s a “very high” risk of new global outbreaks, a possibility that could prove demoralizing to Americans weary of a pandemic that began nearly two years ago.
“This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” Biden said from the White House after emerging from a meeting with public health advisors Monday.
Much about Omicron, which was first identified in South Africa last week, remains unclear. Some scientists fear it could prove highly contagious or evade protection from vaccines that have already been developed, but public health officials said it could take two weeks to develop clearer answers to those questions. No evidence has emerged that Omicron’s symptoms are different, or more severe than previous variants either.
The uncertainty surrounding the variant has left Biden in a delicate situation where he must demonstrate that he’s taking the potential threat seriously while tamping down grim speculation before scientists assemble a more complete picture.