White House COVID-⁠19 response updates on Delta and Omicron

Dec. 6, 2021

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, in a press conference on Friday December 3, 2021, reiterated the CDC current focuses. The current seven-day daily average of cases is about 86,400.  The seven-day average of hospital admissions is about 6,300 per day.  And the seven-day average of daily deaths is at about 860 per day. 

Walensky focused her comments on the state of the Omicron variant. Around the world, we’ve seen cases in about 40 countries. And on Wednesday, the first confirmed case was detected in the United States, in California.  Walensky also noted that the news is focused on Omicron, but we should remember that 99.9 percent of cases in the country right now are from the Delta variant. Since then, additional states including Minnesota, Colorado, Hawaii, and New York have reported cases.  And CDC is working closely with state and local public health authorities to investigate suspect cases in other states.

The first case reported by the California and San Francisco Departments of Public Health was identified quickly through genomic sequencing conducted at the University of California San Francisco, a laboratory that is funded by CDC using resources from the American Rescue Plan. And the sequences from the first three U.S. cases were confirmed at the CDC within hours after their detection by the states. The rapid turnaround and sequence analysis is an example of the importance of our investments this year to expand genomic sequencing across the country, and to build a system that is prepared to swiftly respond to new and emerging COVID variants. Once these cases were identified, CDC staff began working with state and local public health authorities to do contact tracing and investigation. Across the country, public health departments are looking at sequence data, at travel histories and epidemiologic indicators, at diagnostic data to identify possible cases of Omicron. CDC will continue our robust collaborations with state and local public health authorities to identify cases that — as they emerge, to support contact tracing of those newly diagnosed cases of Omicron, to encourage post-arrival testing of international travelers, and to assist with all implementation of prevention strategies. Walensky also said the CDC is equipped and prepared to fight the Omicron variant head on.  They're actively taking steps to stay ahead of Omicron. The CDC issued a health advisory through their Health Alert Network to provide recommendations to public health departments and jurisdictions, laboratories, healthcare providers, and the public in light of the new Omicron variant and what actions are needed now, including testing protocols and guidance for cased investigations. The CDC is urging providers to get all eligible Americans boosted right away. Additionally, CDC is providing support to enhance and streamline genomic sequencing nationally and is expanding surveillance of international travelers. The CDC laboratories are working in collaboration with public health and academic partners, and across agencies to understand the science of this new variant, assessing its susceptibility to therapeutics and vaccines.

The best protection against COVID-19 is our proven layered prevention strategies.  This includes getting vaccinated if you have not already and getting a booster dose if you are eligible, along with wearing a mask in public indoor areas, frequently washing your hands, improving ventilation, physical distancing, and increased testing to slow transmission of the virus. I want to take a moment to emphasize the importance of staying vigilant.  There is still a lot to learn about Omicron, and we will be transparent and share the updated science with you as soon as it becomes available.

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