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White House: We're exhausted from the coronavirus too

·Senior White House Correspondent
·3 min read
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  • Anthony Fauci
    Anthony Fauci
    American immunologist and head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

WASHINGTON — “We are all sick and tired of this virus,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday, just minutes after the first U.S. case of the new Omicron variant was discovered in San Francisco. It was a frank admission of broad exhaustion with the pandemic, even as signs point to it continuing well into 2022.

“This will end, I promise you that,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s top medical adviser, said at the same briefing.

Most epidemiologists agree that the coronavirus will become endemic in the future, so that its behavior comes to mirror that of the common influenza. When that future will arrive, however, nobody yet knows. The Omicron variant could prolong the pandemic for months, much as the Delta variant has done throughout the summer and fall.

Dr. Anthony Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci at a White House daily briefing on Wednesday. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Or the new strain might show an inability to significantly evade the protections offered by vaccines or natural immunity from fighting off the virus. The world’s scientists are racing to determine how threatening Omicron actually is, with more information expected in the coming weeks.

The California patient who is the first known Omicron case in the United States was showing “mild symptoms that are improving,” according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statement. Little else is known about that person, other than that they had recently returned from South Africa, where the Omicron variant was first detected. Significantly, the person had not received a booster shot, which likely provides added protection.


The latest on the Omicron variant

Fauci made that point repeatedly at Wednesday’s briefing. “If you’re eligible for boosting, get boosted right now," he said, advising that people not wait for an Omicron-specific booster shot (whether that shot will even be needed remains one of several unanswered questions about the variant).

Biden has said that he would not resort to lockdowns to fight the Omicron variant, but he has only so much power to influence the decisions that states and municipalities make in the months ahead — even if blame for closed schools or shuttered businesses is ultimately bound to affect his own standing with the American public.

So far, the White House has tried to achieve a positive middle ground in the face of Omicron, somewhere between the doomsaying of social media and cable news on one hand, and the unrealistic optimism that marked the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus on the other.

Jen Psaki
White House press secretary Jen Psaki. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

“This new variant is cause for continued vigilance, not panic,” White House pandemic response team coordinator Jeff Zients said in his own statement in response to the nation’s first Omicron case. Biden made the same point on Monday in remarks about the new strain.

“People are exhausted,” wrote the University of Maryland infectious disease specialist Faheem Younus on Twitter, noting that there had been seven coronavirus variants in the last 14 months. His prescription was simple, and perhaps all the more potent for it: “Be kind.”

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