Health officials on Sunday said the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has spread to about one-third of U.S. states.
But U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy sought to reassure the public that Biden Administration was prepared to confront the newest mutation of a global disease.
"The president announced, were much stronger measures to expand our booster campaign. We're going to have millions of reminders sent out to seniors, many more appointments set up by pharmacies and hundreds of family clinics so kids and adults can get vaccinated together. There was also an expansion of testing, 50 million free tests that will be sent out private insurance coverage for tests starting in Jan."
And speaking on CNN, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, reassured that when it comes to Omicron, "thus far it does not look like there's a great degree of severity to it" but he added that it was too early to draw definitive conclusions and more study is needed.
Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb agreed that it was too early to say how dangerous Omicron may be, in part because most of the data, out of South Africa, is from Omicron cases in people who already survived the Delta variant.
"We don't know whether or not this new strain is inherently less virulent, so it's a more moderate strain of COVID - it's not causing us severe illness - or whether it's presenting that way simply because it's infecting people who already have some pre-existing immunity, so they have some protection from COVID. So they're getting infected, but they're not gettin as sick."
Many of the cases in the U.S. so far were among fully vaccinated individuals with mild symptoms, although the booster shot status of some patients was not reported.
According to a Reuters tally, the U.S. over the last seven days has averaged 119,000 new cases a day. Over that same period, the virus has killed almost 1,300 people per day.