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‘Be concerned about omicron,' but not alarmed — unless you’re unvaccinated, Biden says

Nurses and doctors transfer a patient with covid-19 into an ICU room at CentraCare-St. Cloud Hospital in Minnesota on Nov. 23. (Jenn Ackerman for The Washington Post)
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President Biden sought a delicate balance on Tuesday, reassuring Americans that the country has the tools it needs to combat the latest surge of coronavirus infections, while also urging the unvaccinated to receive their shots and boosters in order to protect against the most severe effects of the omicron variant.

“If you’re vaccinated and boosted, you are highly protected” from serious illness, Biden said in remarks at the White House. “You know, be concerned about omicron, but don’t be alarmed. But if you’re unvaccinated, you have some reason to be alarmed.”

The president’s remarks came as more than 112,000 Americans were hospitalized with covid-19, the highest level since last year’s punishing winter wave, according to data tracked by The Washington Post. The current figure represents a roughly 25 percent increase in hospitalizations over last week’s levels.

Here’s what to know

  • Biden delivered remarks Tuesday about the omicron variant and stressed the importance of vaccines, booster shots and masking.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Tuesday that recipients of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine get booster doses five months after their second shots, shortening the interval by one month.
  • A fourth dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine generated a fivefold jump in antibodies a week after the shot, according to preliminary results of a study released Tuesday by the Israeli government.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot designed to target both the original virus and the omicron variant. Here’s some guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

Variants: Instead of a single new Greek letter variant, a group of immune-evading omicron spinoffs are popping up all over the world. Any dominant variant will likely knock out monoclonal antibodies, targeted drugs that can be used as a treatment or to protect immunocompromised people.

Tripledemic: Hospitals are overwhelmed by a combination of respiratory illnesses, staffing shortages and nursing home closures. And experts believe the problem will deteriorate further in coming months. Here’s how to tell the difference between RSV, the flu and covid-19.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.

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