UArizona researchers say 'it is not time to panic yet' over omicron variant

The University of Arizona gave its final update of the year on the ever-changing coronavirus on Monday, Nov. 29

University president, Robert Robbins, who was joined by the 17th U.S. Surgeon General and professor of public health Dr. Richard Carmona, said of the new variant omicron, "it is not time to panic yet."

The university is continuing to promote the effectiveness of vaccines and booster shots, urging students and staff to "get vaxxed" before it is too late.

"We were kind of trending down, saying we maybe don't need to have this as often. But with this new variant and all the uncertainty, by the time we get back to you in January, there is a lot that is going to change," Robbins said.

With thousands of students preparing to head home for the holidays, both foreign and domestically, it remains to be seen what the situation will look like come January.

UArizona COVID-19 briefings will resume on Jan. 10, 2022.

COVID-19 was of course a topic of conversation for some families over the Thanksgiving weekend.

"Omicron variant, I’ve heard a little about that. Thanksgiving dinner, people were talking about it and I was like, well, better to be safe than sorry, I guess," says Quinn Mahoney, who was getting a booster shot.

He says the news of a new COVID-19 variant was enough of a reason to get a booster shot.

"Both my parents are pessimistic and they think it’s going to be a lot worse than the first wave. I figured it’s worth doing to be safe for my community," Mahoney said.

The variant has led to travel restrictions around the world, and it’s also being closely watched by local officials in Arizona.

"When it’s consequential in the virus, the virus takes on new characteristics like more transmissibility, more lethality, making the vaccine less useful to us, but we don’t know any of that," Carmona said.

The emphasis from both federal and local officials is now on vaccines – and booster shots for people who meet the criteria.

"We don’t know how good yet, but there’s reason to believe that the vaccine will still be very effective and there should be nobody thinking because there’s a variant I don’t need the vaccine," Carmona added.

President Joe Biden emphasizes vaccine importance

President Joe Biden urged Americans to get vaccinated and to receive a booster shot amid worries about the coronavirus omicron variant — saying the new strain is a "cause for concern, not a cause for panic."

Biden, who gave remarks at the White House on Nov. 29, emphasized the importance of vaccination to protect against all variants of the COVID-19 virus and the urgency of vaccinating the roughly 80 million Americans aged 5 and up who haven't received a shot. But Biden said he does not anticipate the need for any new virus-related restrictions, beyond last week's move to restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries in the region effective Monday.

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