With coronavirus-related hospitalizations rising around the country, the Biden administration is working with medical experts to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to blunt the impact of the new omicron variant.
Broadway shows are shuttering, some professional sports teams again are playing without fans in attendance, and some nations are enacting travel bans.
“I want to send a direct message to the American people: Due to the steps we’ve taken, omicron has not yet spread as fast as it would’ve otherwise done and as is happening in Europe,” Biden said. “But it’s here now, and it’s spreading, and it’s going to increase.”
Experts at the University of Minnesota’s Centers for Infectious Disease Research and Policy issued a warning that millions of Americans might suffer infections over the holidays because of the omicron variant.
The NHL’s Montreal Canadiens announced the team’s upcoming games will take place without fans, and the NFL and NBA have reported uptick in COVID-related player issues.
Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said the omicron variant has been found among cases throughout the league.
The NBA’s Chicago Bulls canceled two games this week because of an outbreak among personnel in the city.
Some colleges and universities have returned to online learning, and some grade schools have resorted to hybrid models.
“For unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death — if you’re unvaccinated — for themselves, their families, and the hospitals they’ll soon overwhelm,” Biden said in a statement late Thursday.
He said those fully vaccinated — including booster shots — are protected from severe illness and death.
The president proclaimed that “booster shots work.”
“They are free, safe, and convenient,” Biden said.
About 60 million people have received booster shots, and the White House continues to urge all to protect themselves.
“It’s time. It’s past time,” Biden said. “And we’re going to protect our economic recovery if we do this. We’re going to keep schools and businesses open if we do this. And I want to see everyone around enjoy that. I want to see them enjoy the fact that they’re able to be in school, that businesses are open, and the holidays are coming.
“So get your booster shot,” he said. “It’s critically important.”