Biden reassures vaccinated, warns unvaccinated amid COVID surge


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President Joe Biden on Tuesday sought to reassure the public that the federal government is prepared to address the growing COVID-19 health crisis amid a staggering increase in infections driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant.

Addressing the country before a meeting with the White House COVID-19 response team, Biden once again exhorted Americans to get vaccinated and boosted and to wear masks in public to avoid spreading and catching the coronavirus.

“We have the tools to protect people from severe illness due to omicron – if people choose to use the tools,’’ Biden said. “There’s a lot of reason to be hopeful in (2022), but for God’s sake, please take advantage of what’s available.’’

The U.S. topped the 1 million mark in new coronavirus cases for the first time Monday, a figure that was likely enhanced by holiday weekend backlogs but still obliterated the previous record of 591,000 set Thursday.

The latest huge surge in infections is straining hospitals, contributing to flight cancelations because of crew shortages and scuttling plans for students to resume in-person learning, among other major disruptions.

About 1 in every 100 Americans will have contracted the virus in just the last week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University

The president pointed out the U.S. has enough vaccines and booster shots for everybody in the nation, but 35 million adults have yet to get the shots. He also emphasized the importance of keeping schools open and said the government has doubled its purchasing order of a COVID treatment pill from Pfizer from 10 million to 20 million.

Vaccinations, however, remain the strongest line of defense against the virus, even with omicron’s increased ability to cause breakthrough infections.

“You can still get COVID, but it’s highly unlikely that you’ll become seriously ill,’’ Biden said. “If you’re vaccinated and boosted, you are highly protected. Be concerned about omicron, but don’t be alarmed. And if you’re unvaccinated, you have some reasons to be alarmed. You’ll experience severe illness in many cases.’’

Also in the news:

► Pandemic-caused shortages of airline workers combined with a winter storm that hit the mid-Atlantic on Monday were again causing thousands of flight delays and cancellations Tuesday, according to FlightAware.

► The omicron variant accounted for more than 95% of all new cases in the week that ended Saturday, the CDC says. That is up from 77% the previous week

►Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, is the latest lawmaker to test positive, posting on Twitter Monday that he is “asymptomatic and feel fine.”

► Access to many indoor public places across Chicago and much of Cook County requires proof of vaccination effective Monday. Some communities say they won’t enforce the mandate. Houses of worship are among exempt locations.

► New infections reported globally are up 83% over the previous week. The world is now reporting more than 11 million cases a…



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