Omicron has reached our shores.
Five states have reported cases of the new COVID-19 variant, and people are rethinking everything from vaccines to travel. Here’s what we know so far.
What states have cases?
California, New York, Hawaii, Minnesota, and Colorado. The first case was detected in a traveler who traveled from South Africa, where the variant was first discovered, to San Francisco. Exactly a week ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a “variant of concern;” on Tuesday, the U.S. did the same thing.
What is the White House doing?
“We’re going to fight this variant with science and speed, not chaos and confusion, just like we beat back COVID-19 in the spring and the more powerful variant—delta variant—in the summer and fall,” President Joe Biden said in a speech to the National Institutes of Health on Thursday.
His plan includes growing the nationwide booster campaign, creating new family vaccination clinics to enable relatives to get vaccinated together, increasing the availability of free at-home tests and getting them covered by private insurance plans, and instituting tougher travel rules.
What are the new travel rules?
People flying to the U.S. ages 2 and older must have a negative result for a COVID-19 viral test taken no more than 1 day before travel or proof that they recovered from the virus within the past 90 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The requirement takes effect for flights departing at or after 12:01 a.m. on Monday.
What’s happening on the vaccination front?
More than 2 million vaccine doses were administered on Thursday, the CDC reports. That’s an estimated half a million more than Wednesday’s tally.
How can I protect myself against omicron?
Get vaccinated if you aren’t already and don’t wait for pharmaceutical companies to release an omicron booster. Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “Get boosted now. We may not need a variant-specific boost.”
As for social gatherings during the approaching holidays, Fauci urges caution and common sense. In larger public settings, wear a mask except when you are eating or drinking. He noted, “In a situation with the holiday season, indoor-type settings with family that you know is vaccinated, people that you know, you could feel safe with not wearing a mask and having a dinner, having a reception.”