U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy Sunday said, “It’s going to be a tough few weeks” for the United States in confronting the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
“The cases numbers are high, hospitals are struggling,” Murthy told ABC’s “This Week” show.
But he also voiced optimism, saying, “We’re going to get through this. We’re pulling out the stops on testing,” soon making test kits available to Americans who want them.
He described as “very disappointing” and a “setback for public health” a recent Supreme Court decision blocking President Joe Biden’s mandate that 84 million workers at large businesses be vaccinated or tested frequently. The court, however, let stand an order requiring 17 million health care workers to be inoculated against the infection.
Murthy said the Biden administration is still “encouraging companies to impose mandates” on their workers, as many companies have done so while others have decided otherwise. The Supreme Court order does not block individual companies from ordering such mandates, although some Republican state governors have been trying to stop any mandates from taking effect in their states.
“One of the lessons we’ve learned about vaccines is that they are working,” Murthy said, while acknowledging that even those who have been fully vaccinated and received a booster shot still stand about a 20% chance of being infected with the omicron strain.
Overall, the U.S. is currently recording about 800,000 new coronavirus cases a day and nearly 2,000 deaths, although there are early indications that the surge in omicron cases has reached a peak in some parts of the country and leveled off.
Still, the number of new cases has, as Murthy said, overwhelmed hospitals in some states. Biden last week dispatched military medical personnel to six of the country’s 50 states to assist health care workers at hospitals there.