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Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy is urging Americans to be more aggressive in taking precautions against the COVID-19 omicron variant. Murthy told “Fox News Sunday” that, while he and other officials are still learning about omicron, he does not want the public to be afraid.
Murthy acknowledged that he is “concerned” that omicron will spread at a greater rate than other variants like the powerful delta, but emphasized that people already know what to do to increase their chances of staying safe.
“I do think it’s a reason for us to not necessarily panic but to be more vigilant and to recognize that the precautions that we have been talking about for the last year or so are all the more important now than ever,” Murthy told host Chris Wallace.
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy delivers remarks during a news conference with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki at the White House in Washington July 15, 2021. (REUTERS/Tom Brenner)
“We do know that the measures that we take to protect ourselves from the spread of COVID — including wearing masks in indoor spaces, being in well-ventilated spaces – those work and will work against omicron,” Murthy said. “We also know with vaccines, Chris, that even though we’re trying to figure out the exact level of protection our vaccines will give against omicron, in every case we have seen the vaccinated are better off, particularly more protected against hospitalization and death, than the unvaccinated. That’s why we’re urging people to get vaccinated and boosted.”
Wallace asked if Murthy recommends that people go back to wearing masks when indoors with people from outside their household. The surgeon general said that not only does he recommend this, but that it has been recommended for months already.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, takes his seat for a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
“Certainly what we’ve been seeing since the summer time is that if you are vaccinated or unvaccinated but gathered with people outside your household in indoor spaces, that wearing a mask is the recommended step to take to help reduce the potential for spread. It protects you, but it also protects the people around you,” Murthy advised.
Murthy also offered some words of encouragement, noting that even as Americans may be bracing for higher case numbers this winter, the country is far more equipped to handle COVID-19 than in the past.
Travelers wearing protective face masks wait for a shuttle to arrive at the Los Angeles International Airport Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
“I just want to make sure people understand this very clearly: We are not back in March 2020, despite the prospect of a new variant – omicron – on the horizon and despite the fact that we found cases here,” Murthy said. “We have more tools, we have more knowledge to protect ourselves.”
Murthy noted that he has spent holidays with family during the fall and expects to do the same this winter.
“We can gather safely for the holidays,” he said.