Omicron briefing: What did the CDC, President Biden, and Dr. Fauci say?
President Biden, VP Harris, and the White House covid-19 response team held a briefing today, providing updates on the Omicron variant and the case surge.
The United States is grappling with the largest surge in cases seen during the pandemic, confirming over a million covid-19 cases on 3 January. The test positivity rate hit twenty-two percent nationally, meaning that one in five tests are coming back positive and that the transmission of the virus is completely out of control.
Hospitalizations are also tracking upwards, a stark reminder that as we inch closer to the third year of the pandemic, this virus will not be going away.
The country is averaging almost 13,000 new hospitalizations each day, an increase of forty-eight percent compared to levels captured a week ago. Currently, there are around 85,000 people in the hospital, surpassing the number of patients seen this summer when the Delta variant took hold in the US. However, the numbers are still lower than the peak of 124,000 people hospitalized a year ago, before the vaccine rollout began.
The President said that the federal government has worked, and will continue to establish new testing sites around the country. For those looking to get a test, he said that one can simply Google "covid tests near me, to find the nearest site."
He also confirmed that next week, insurance companies will be required to reimburse members for the costs of their tests, should they choose to purchase them from drug stores or online retailers. For those who do not have insurance, the federal government will be launching a site to order free tests that will be delivered to your doorstep. No dates were provided on when the site will go live.
The first batch of Pfizer's pill that greatly reduces hospitalization and death for covid-19 cases, was sent on Christmas Eve. The President noted that the production of these pills is very complex and takes months. "These pills are already saving lives," said Biden who said that 20 million doses will become available in the coming months. However, the pills which can lower the risk that a person would need to be hospitalized are in very short supply, at a time when they could not be more needed. While production is ramping up, the US could have overcome its peak of infection by the time they arrive. If that is the case, the White House may opt to store many pills to have them on hand when the next variant inevitably emerges.
President Biden was clear, the US should prepare for more cases, hospitalizations and deaths. "You can control the impact Omicron will have on your health," he argued urging people to get vaccinated, booster, and to wear a mask when around others.
Does Omicron lead to more severe infection in children?
No. President Biden said today that "We have no reason to believe that Omicron is worse for children than any previous variant." He did note that the best way to protect children is to get them vaccinated and for those too young to get their shots is to "surround your kids with people who are vaccinated"