CDC chief and White House do pre-holiday predictions about omicron and school closings

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The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes that the number of omicron cases in the U.S. will likely increase in the coming days but the White House is “confident” that schools will stay open.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky urged Americans to get vaccinated or get their vaccine booster shots as she explained the latest on the COVID-19 variant at a White House COVID-19 Task Force Briefing on Wednesday.

“In looking at early data on transmissibility of omicron from other countries, we expect to see the proportion of omicron cases here in the United States continue to grow in the coming weeks,” Walensky said.

“Early data suggests that omicron is more transmissible than delta, with a doubling time of about two days,” she added.

Noting the coming winter and holiday season will likely mean more people being indoors and families gathering together, the director urged people to get vaccinated or boosted and to remain “vigilant about masking in public indoor settings” and in “areas of substantial or high community transmission,” which Walensky noted is currently in about 90 percent of all U.S. counties.


Though scientists and some data have indicated that the omicron strain is milder. it can also be more easily spread from person to person.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned against those who may be  “dismissing omicron as mild,” noting in Geneva on Tuesday that it’s spreading at a rate “not seen with any previous variant.”

President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser also chimed in on Tuesday about the latest virus strain.

“At this point, there is no need for a variant-specific booster,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said. “And so, the message remains clear: If you are unvaccinated get vaccinated and, particularly in the arena of omicron, if you are fully vaccinated, get your booster shot.”

Meanwhile, the Biden administration delivered assurances that the resources are available for vaccines and that children’s education will not be disrupted by school closures due to the virus.

“And so, we’re very confident that that’s going to be the case. We’re not going to shut down. We are comforted by the resources and what we have learned and the tools that we have in our tool belt to do that,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Wednesday while aboard Air Force One.


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