How concerned should we be about the omicron variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus, asked President Joe Biden in a speech to the nation this afternoon. "We should all be concerned about omicron, but not panicked. If you're not fully vaccinated you are right to be concerned," he correctly stated. Biden also observed that almost every American who has died in the past year of COVID-19 infections was unvaccinated.
Biden acknowledged that the new omicron variant of the coronavirus sweeping through the country is extremely contagious and likely to cause a lot of breakthrough infections among folks who are vaccinated. However, he did emphasize that evidence indicates that vaccinated people who do experience breakthrough infections are much less likely to become severely ill or die.
In July, Biden pointed out, 90 million Americans eligible for vaccination had not yet been inoculated. But that number has now dropped to 40 million. Biden also said that fully vaccinated people can enjoy the holiday safely with their friends and neighbors who are also vaccinated. "I got my booster shot as soon as they were available, and just the other day, former President Trump announced that he had gotten his booster shot," Biden said.
Biden declared that the U.S. was not going back to March 2020, when much of the country locked down at the beginning of the pandemic. Why not? Because 200 million Americans are vaccinated, the health care system is better prepared to protect health care workers and to treat those who do fall ill, and officials know how to protect K-12 students so that schools won't close down.
Biden outlined further steps his administration is taking to address the omicron wave. The federal government is setting up 10,000 new vaccination and 20,000 new free testing sites across the country. In addition, the federal government is purchasing half a billion at-home COVID-19 tests that will be distributed to households for free starting in January. (This will help, but it's too little too late to help Americans cope with the omicron surge.) In addition, 1,000 military medical personnel are being deployed to hotspots where hospitals are already being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.
Visibly angry, Biden stated, "Look, the unvaccinated are responsible for their own choices, but those choices have been fueled by dangerous misinformation on cable TV and social media." He added: "You know, these companies and personalities are making money by peddling lies and allowing misinformation that can kill their own customers and their own supporters." That, Biden declared, is "wrong, it's immoral! I call on the purveyors of these lies and misinformation, stop it. Stop it now."