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the coronavirus crisis

Biden says Omicron variant is a 'cause for concern, not a cause for panic'

President Biden delivered an address Monday urging Americans not to "panic" about the new Omicron variant of COVID-19, vowing the United States will "fight and beat" it. 

Biden spoke amid concerns over the new coronavirus variant that was first identified in South Africa. No U.S. cases have been reported, but Biden warned that "sooner or later, we're going to see cases of this new variant here in the United States." The president said his administration will "fight and beat" the Omicron variant, telling Americans, "This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic." 

Much remains unknown about the Omicron variant of COVID-19, including how transmissible it is compared to previous variants, and Biden's COVID-19 team told him in a meeting the variant's threat profile won't be known for about two weeks. 

During his address, Biden again called on Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and get their booster shot when eligible, calling this the "best protection" against the variant, and he said his administration would accelerate the development of updated vaccines in the "hopefully unlikely" event this would be needed to fight the variant. But "we do not yet believe additional measures will be needed," he added. 

Biden also said he'll unveil a strategy later this week for fighting COVID-19 during the winter, "not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing, and more." He told reporters lockdowns are off the table "for now" because "if people are vaccinated and wear their masks, there's no need for it."