Biden warns of winter with ‘severe illness and death’ for unvaccinated

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President Joe Biden meets with members of the White House COVID-19 Response Team in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 16. 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (The Hill) – President Biden on Thursday warned of a winter of “severe illness and death” for unvaccinated Americans as coronavirus cases spike across the country.

Biden, in a meeting with medical advisers and Vice President Harris to discuss the pandemic, said the country was in a better position to deal with the omicron variant of COVID-19 because of steps taken to limit travel and increase access to boosters.

“But it’s here now and it’s spreading, and it’s gonna increase,” Biden said of the omicron variant, which experts think is more contagious than previous strains.

“For unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death… for themselves, their families and the hospitals they’ll soon overwhelm,” Biden continued. “But there’s good news. If you’re vaccinated, and you have your booster shot, you’re protected from severe illness and death, period.”

Biden stressed the effectiveness of booster shots in guarding against severe illness. He noted nearly 57 million Americans have gotten boosted, which experts have said is one way to guard against severe illness regardless of the variants.

Boosters would help keep the economy and schools open, Biden said.

“The whole point is omicron is here,” Biden said. “It’s going to start to spread much more rapidly at the beginning of the year. And the only real protection is to get your shots. If you get one shot, you haven’t gotten it yet that’ll help. If you’re at a point where you have everything including your booster, you’re in really good shape. So move now, move now. Thank you all very much.”

Anthony Fauci, Biden’s top medical adviser on the pandemic, said earlier Thursday that the omicron variant will likely be dominant in the U.S. in “a few weeks” and warned of the possibility of hospitals being overwhelmed this winter.

He added, though, that people who are vaccinated, and especially those who have their booster shots, will be “relatively well protected, at least against severe disease,” saying he is most worried about the unvaccinated.

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