President Biden on Thursday warned that unvaccinated Americans will be responsible for ushering in a “winter of severe illness and death” and will soon “overwhelm” hospitals.
“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 have otherwise done,” Biden told reporters after a COVID-19 briefing at the White House.
“But it’s here now and it’s spreading and it’s gonna increase,” the president added.
“We are looking at a winter of severe illness and death for the unvaccinated — for themselves, their families, and the hospitals they’ll soon overwhelm. But there’s good news: If you’re vaccinated and you have your booster shot, you’re protected from severe illness and death,” Biden said.
Biden also said that a vaccinated public will contribute to safeguarding the country’s economic recovery.
“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,” Biden said.
On Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical advisor, assured that booster vaccine shots are effective against the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
“Booster vaccine regiments work against Omicron,” Fauci said at the White House. “At this point, there is no need for a variant-specific booster, 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.”
However, some places have already started shutting down again. The first U.S. Omicron case was confirmed less than three weeks ago, but the new variant has spread rapidly, especially in New York City, which became the first epicenter of COVID-19 in early 2020.
As of Wednesday, the average number of new virus cases in the city had spiked to 3,554 a day, according to The New York Times.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is reconsidering whether to go forward with the city’s New Year’s Day celebration in Times Square.
“Everyone’s been told for weeks and weeks, don’t even show up in Times Square unless you’re vaccinated,” de Blasio said on CNN.
“Now we’re going to reassess constantly with the new information. We’re going to follow the data and the science,” the mayor said.
Several Broadway performances including “Hamilton” have already been canceled due to outbreaks. In some cases, the audience was already seated when the news of the cancellation was delivered to them.
At least a dozen restaurants in New York are also shutting down again.
In London, another hotspot for the Omicron variant, some businesses are shutting down of their own accord without government intervention, citing canceled reservations and concern about worker exposure.