CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – Governor Roy Cooper addressed the fight against COVID-19 in North Carolina as President Joe Biden has called the new coronavirus variant Omicron a cause for concern but “not a cause for panic.”
On Tuesday, Gov. Cooper was joined by members of the Coronavirus Task Force to share the update at the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh.
President Biden says he was not considering any widespread U.S. lockdown due to the Omicron variant but urged Americans to get fully vaccinated, including booster shots, and return to face masks indoors in public settings to slow any spread.
“We are all painfully aware that we haven’t fully defeated this pandemic,” Cooper said. “The Delta variant is still with us causing sickness and death, mostly among the unvaccinated, while health alerts about the emerging Omicron variant have caused concern and opened a new set of questions.”
Viruses are always changing (mutating) and new variants (or strains) of a virus are expected.
North Carolina health leaders say the best way to slow the emergence of new variants is to reduce the spread of infection by taking measures to protect yourself, including getting vaccinated.
More than 13 percent of children, between ages 5 and 11, have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot, while 72 percent of adults in the state have been partially vaccinated.
“If you want to make your Christmas gatherings safer, get your shot today,” Cooper said. “Getting more people vaccinated is the way to get out of this,” Cooper said. “These vaccines are safe, effective and free, and they are saving lives every minute of every day by preventing people from getting severe COVID symptoms that could land them in the ICU or worse.”
On Nov. 26, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified a new variant, named Omicron, as a variant of concern. No cases of Omicron have been identified in the U.S. to date.
“As scientists and health experts race to get answers about the new variant, we still know this to be 100 percent true – getting more people vaccinated is the way out of this pandemic,” Cooper said.
The variant was first detected in South Africa and has subsequently been detected in several other countries in southern Africa, and Europe and Canada.
The CDC and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services are monitoring and continuing to learn about this new variant.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is tracking emerging variants – including the Delta variant. The Delta variant, classified by the CDC as a variant of concern, is currently the predominant strain of the virus in the United States.
Health leaders say the Delta variant is more than twice as contagious as previous variants, and some data suggests it might cause more severe illness than previous strains in unvaccinated persons.
Booster shots for those already vaccinated are widely available in North Carolina.
The CDC recommends that everyone 18 years or older receive a booster shot to strengthen and extend protections against serious illness, hospitalization, or death from COVID-19. Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine recipients should get a booster six months after their second dose. Those who received a single Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine should get a booster two months later.
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