Days after the World Health Organization (WHO) classified the COVID-19 Omicron a “variant of concern,” President Joe Biden said there is no “cause for panic.”

The variant has not been identified in the U.S., but White house officials have said it will make its way to the U.S., as other variants have.

Biden said he does not believe new measures will need to be taken against the variant and iterated that economic lockdowns will not be needed.

“On Thursday, I’m going to be putting forward a detailed strategy on how to deal with this new variant,” Biden said. “And that is not shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccination and more boosters, testing, and — and more.”

Biden also said it may take weeks to determine how effective the current COVID-19 vaccines will be against the Omicron variant, although Dr. Fauci believes they will provide “some protection.”

What Researchers In South Africa Found

The Omicron variant was first detected by scientists in South Africa on Nov. 24, with the first case being traced to Nov. 9, but the variant has been identified in other countries such as Botswana, the Netherlands, Portugal and the U.K.

The WHO then labeled Omicron a “variant of concern” meaning the variant has either increased its ability to spread, increased in possible symptoms or seen an ability to evade public health measures such as vaccines and therapeutics.

Other variants that were also of concern were the Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta.

Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association, said the Omicron is not deadly thus far, showing only mild symptoms and no hospitalizations, according to BBC.

Coetzee said she found the variant after a patient experienced symptoms uncommon with the Delta variant and did not have the usual sore throat, cough or loss of smell. The patient showed extreme tiredness, as well as body aches.

The patient’s entire family also tested positive, and Coetzee began seeing many more cases with the variant.

Travel Restrictions

After news of the Omicron variant, President Biden announced travel restrictions, effective Nov. 29, for flights coming from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.

“… travel restrictions can slow the speed of Omicron, it cannot prevent it,” Biden said in  briefing Monday. “Sooner or later, we’re going to see cases of this new variant here in the United States. We’ll have to face this new threat just as we have faced those that have come before it.”

L.A. Response

While no cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in the U.S., L.A. Public Health is preparing for the possibility of it reaching the county. With no indication of new measures being needed, L.A. echoed the White House response of administering vaccines to all eligible children and adults.

“As the County prepares to deal with the possible threat of Omicron, a new variant of concern, the most important strategy remains making sure that everyone 5 years and older gets fully vaccinated or receives their booster dose as quickly as possible to reduce transmission of COVID-19,” Public Health said in a media release, Monday. “Given that there continues to be substantial transmission of COVID-19 and the uncertainty about the level of vaccine efficacy against this new variant of concern, all residents and workers need to be sure to adhere to vaccination verification and masking requirements and wear a mask when indoors or at large outdoor mega events regardless of vaccination status.”



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