The new coronavirus variant Omicron is in the USA, and while experts study how severe it may be, CDC Chief Rochelle Walensky has a message: Delta is here, too, and it's dangerous. Protect yourself from all variants by following a few key steps, she urged. Walensky appeared yesterday morning on ABC's This Week opposite Martha Raddatz. Read on for 5 life-saving pieces of advice—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Dr. Walensky Said Omicron is Spreading in the USA and Here's What We Need to Know
"The first thing I think we should say is that we have about 90 to a hundred thousand cases a day right now in the United States. And in 99.9% of them are the Delta variant. So we have an issue right now in the United States with Delta. And we have so many things that we can do about Delta, including getting vaccinated, including getting boosted." As for Omicron: "As of last night, about 15 states…have several dozen cases and we're following them closely and we are every day hearing about more and more probable cases. So that number is likely to rise. We know it has many mutations, more mutations than prior variants. And many of those mutations have been associated with more transmissible variants, with evasion of some of our therapeutics and potentially evasion of some of our immunity. And that's what we're watching really carefully. What we don't yet know is how transmissible it will be, how well our vaccines will work, whether it will lead to more severe disease."
Dr. Walensky Said This is What the Next Six Months May Look Like
"I think the next six months really depend on how we mobilize together to do the things that we know work. We know from a vaccine standpoint, that the more mutations a single variant has, the more immunity you really need to have in order to combat that variant, which is why right now we're really pushing to get more people vaccinated and more people boosted to really boost that immunity in every single individual," said Dr. Walensky. "We're really hopeful that our vaccines will work in a way that even if they don't prevent disease entirely prevent infection entirely that they can work to prevent severe disease and keep people out of the hospital."
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Dr. Walensky Said Here's When to Mask Up
"The CDC recommendations have been clear," said Walensky. "We recommend masking and public indoor settings and areas that have high or substantial transmission. And that's over 80% of our counties right now. So of course those mandates and requirements are going to happen at the county level at the policy maker level. But our recommendations have been crystal clear." When asked about a nationwide mask mandate, Dr. Walensky said: "I would rather see people get vaccinated, boosted and follow our recommendations. I'd rather not have requirements in order to do so. People should do this for themselves."
Dr. Walensky Said This About Air Travel
When it comes to virus spread on an airplane, and travel restrictions: "It's not about whether you have transmission on an airplane," said Dr. Walensky. "We know we can prevent that transmission on an airplane through masking. So really the rationale for the restrictions would be different. And isn't a key here getting vaccines into the arms of people who don't have them globally. How can we make that happen faster? Would this have happened? If they were vaccinated in South Africa, you know, we're working really hard to do so we're working and we're more not only donating the vaccines for free and providing more vaccines to the globe than any than every other country combined. But we at CDC work in 60 other countries providing on the ground assistance in vaccine safety and vaccine delivery and vaccine confidence in vaccine effectiveness studies."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.