CHICAGO (CBS) – More and more cases of the omicron variant of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed in the United States – and travel restrictions are starting to take effect as the variant spreads.
As CBS 2 political investigator Dana Kozlov reported Thursday night, President Joe Biden said he doesn’t think closures or lockdowns are necessary at this time. But traveling this holiday season will require more difficult testing.
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The omicron variant is making its way across the United States as expected. In New York state, officials said five cases have now been confirmed. More cases were discovered over the past day in Minnesota, Colorado and California.
“It’s probably already more widespread than our initial determinations indicated, and it will spread further,” said infectious disease expert Dr William Schaffner.
The increase in delta variant cases and new omicron cases in the United States have prompted President Biden to announce tighter travel restrictions and other efforts to combat the spread. In addition to banning travelers from eight southern African countries from entering the United States as of Monday, December 6 – as announced last week – the president is now asking travelers returning to the United States to take a COVID test -19 in the day following their entry.
Meanwhile, the mask’s mandate on all planes, trains and other public transport nationwide has been extended until March.
President Biden is also demanding that private insurance reimburse people for COVID home test kits.
“Experts say COVID-19 cases will continue to increase in the coming weeks and this winter, so we need to be prepared,” President Biden said.
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Locally, Cook County Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr Rachel Rubin said the county has been notified.
“We’re a lot more concerned with delta than omicron,” said Rubin, “but as your first question indicated, we’re definitely on high alert – and we’re monitoring this very closely.”
Rubin believes the COVID-19 vaccine will still be effective against the new variant when it comes to preventing serious illness and death.
So far, there have been no confirmed cases of the omicron variant in Illinois – yet.
“If omicron continues to increase and starts to represent a higher proportion of the cases that we see, then we will see more breakthrough cases,” Rubin said.
Dr Rubin not only stressed the importance of getting the COVID vaccine, but also said people should not wait to receive their booster, if they are eligible.
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Neither Governor JB Pritzker nor Mayor Lori Lightfoot have indicated that they are considering closures either.