Awaiting info on new COVID variant, officials urge boosters


Pres. Biden says although the omicron variant is a cause for concern, it is not a cause for panic

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Fear and concern are once again spreading throughout the world as a new COVID-19 variant takes hold in several countries.

The United States is among several nations now restricting travel from several African countries after the omicron variant was first discovered there. Taking it a step further, other countries such as Israel and Japan are restricting entrance by all foreigners.

President Joe Biden held a news conference on Monday morning to say although the omicron variant is a cause for concern, it is not a cause for panic. The variant’s already been found in more than a dozen countries — and while no cases have yet been identified in the U.S., they are expected. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says he wouldn’t be surprised if the new variant was already in the states.

Once omicron arrives, Biden said, America will “face this new threat just as we’ve faced those that have come before it.” However, he indicated lockdowns will not be reinstated.

As we wait to find out more about this new variant, the big question is will the vaccines we have now be effective in fighting it off. The current travel bans in place will buy time for scientists to do research on the variant and the vaccines we have.

Dr. Bill Messer, an epidemiologist for the Oregon Health and Science University, says it will take about two weeks to find out — but for now, all adults should get a booster six months after their last COVID-19 vaccination dose.

Dr. Messer expects cases will be flagged pretty quickly by routine COVID-19 testing.

“COVID testing is the way to find out more. South African researchers are reporting different symptoms than with previous strains — symptoms such as fatigue, head and body aches and occasional sore throat and cough, but no loss of taste or smell,” Messner explained.

Health care officials are urging individuals to make sure they’re masking up, keeping their distance while indoors and getting fully vaccinated if they are not already. Find a list of local vaccine clinics here.

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