“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,” Mr Biden said at the White House following his Covid-19 briefing. “But it’s here now and it’s spreading and it’s going to increase.”
“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,” he said.
The US president urged Americans to get their booster shots, saying it was “past time” to get one and prevent schools and businesses from shutting down.
“We’re gonna protect our economic recovery. If we do this, we’re gonna keep schools and businesses open ... 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,” he said.
President Biden wore his mask throughout the meeting with his coronavirus adviser Dr Anthony Fauci, and Dr Julie Ledgerwood and Dr John Mascola of the Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center on Thursday.
His stark warnings come as Covid infections surge across the US, driven by the heavily-mutated Omicron variant of coronavirus.
Omicron has accounted for nearly 3 per cent of Covid cases in the US as of Saturday, up from only 0.4 per cent the week before, according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The country also reached a grim milestone of 800,000 deaths from Covid-19 this week.
The US is recording an average of nearly 120,000 new cases every day and more than 1,200 people are succumbing to the infection daily, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. This is a nearly 50 per cent increase since the previous month.
On Tuesday, the CDC presented two scenarios based on models on what could be the situation in the US over the next few weeks and months. They predicted that cases linked to both Delta and Omicron variants could peak in January, and cases related to Omicron could again surge in the spring.
The CDC has predicted that by 8 January, the death toll in the US could be in the range of 837,000 to 845,000 . “I suspect that those numbers are going to shoot up dramatically in the next couple of weeks,” Céline Gounder, infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist, said.
She added that the Omicron wave may peak at the end of January and recede sometime in February.