President Joe Biden on Thursday warned people who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 are looking at a very bleak and dangerous winter if they do not get their shots soon.
“I want to send a direct message to the American people: Due to the steps we’ve taken Omicron has not yet spread as fast as it would have otherwise done,” Biden said in remarks at the White House following his Covid-19 briefing Thursday.
“But it’s here now and it’s spreading and it’s gonna increase. … We are looking at a winter of severe illness and death for the unvaccinated – for themselves, their families and the hospitals they’ll soon overwhelm. But there’s good news: If you’re vaccinated and you have your booster shot, you’re protected from severe illness and death,” the President added.
Biden also called on individuals to get vaccinated to protect the country’s economic recovery.
“We’re gonna protect our economic recovery. If we do this, we’re gonna keep schools and businesses open … and I want to see everyone around enjoy that. I want to see them enjoy the fact that they’re able to be in school, that businesses are open and the holidays are coming,” he continued.
Biden’s warning comes as a chorus of public health officials are calling on Americans to get boosted to prevent serious illness.
As of Wednesday, only about 1 in 6 people in the US are fully vaccinated and boosted against Covid-19, leaving hundreds of millions at risk as the threat of the fast-transmitting Omicron variant looms.
The latest ensemble forecasts published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that new Covid-19 hospital admissions may reach record levels in the coming weeks, while new cases and deaths may reach levels last seen during last winter’s surge.
The CDC’s predicted increase in Covid-19 deaths would bring total deaths for the pandemic to 837,000 to 845,000 people by January 8.
An average of nearly 120,000 new cases are being diagnosed each day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University – 50% more than a month ago. And more than 1,200 people are dying every day, on average.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he is certain Omicron will become the dominant coronavirus variant in the US relatively soon.
“It has what we call a doubling time of about three days. And if you do the math on that, if you have just a couple of percentage of the isolates being Omicron, very soon it’s going to be the dominant variant,” Fauci said, later adding, “We’ve seen that in South Africa, we’re seeing it in the UK and I’m absolutely certain that’s what we’re going to be seeing here relatively soon.”
Fauci also said this week that at this point, there is no need for a variant-specific booster shot but that there will “no doubt” be breakthrough infections.
This story has been updated with additional information.
CNN’s Deidre McPhillips, Naomi Thomas and Maggie Fox contributed to this report.