President Biden said Monday that his administration was not recommending further restrictions on businesses or in-person gatherings to combat the coronavirus pandemic amid concerns about the new omicron variant.
Speaking from the Roosevelt Room, Biden described vaccinations as the best possible tool to defeat the virus and any emerging variants. He said his administration would outline a strategy to combat COVID-19 during the winter months later this week.
“On Thursday, I'll be putting forward a detailed strategy outlining how we're going to fight COVID this winter, not with shutdowns or lockdowns but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more,” Biden said.
Biden later told reporters that “lockdowns” were off the table “for now” as his administration weighs measures to respond to the omicron variant, much about which remains unknown.
“If people are vaccinated and wear their mask, there is no need for the lockdown,” Biden said.
Lockdowns refer to closures of or restrictions on businesses, schools and other in-person gatherings. The federal government generally cannot maintain such steps but can recommend them for states or cities.
When the coronavirus raged last year, many states and cities implemented restrictions on businesses and large gatherings to stop the spread of the virus. Officials have curbed such restrictions as coronavirus vaccines have become widely available in the U.S.
The omicron variant has driven the U.S. and other countries to restrict travel from southern Africa, where the variant originated. Health experts and officials say it will take at least two weeks to better understand the variant’s transmissibility and the degree to which vaccines protect against it.
There has not yet been a case of the omicron variant in the U.S., but cases have been detected in Canada and Europe, and Biden said Monday that U.S. cases were inevitable.
Biden described the omicron variant as a “cause for concern” but not panic and encouraged Americans who have not yet gotten vaccinated or received their booster shots to do so immediately.