Vaccinated face ‘low’ risk at holiday gatherings despite Omicron: surgeon general

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Feel free to keep those holiday plans.

US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on Sunday said that vaccinated Americans can still gather for the holidays with “low” risk amid the spread of the concerning, new Omicron variant as long as they follow health precautions.

“The concern and the challenge we have right now in the country, Margaret, is that we have millions of people who are still unvaccinated, which poses a risk to their lives, but also poses an increased risk of transmission,” Murthy told anchor Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation.”

“But if you do as many families, you get vaccinated and boosted. You use testing judiciously before you gather, you gather in well-ventilated spaces and use masks whenever you can in public indoor spaces, your risk can be quite low and your holidays can be quite fulfilling.”

Murthy stressed that the precautions are critical as experts work to find out more about the new COVID-19 variant, which was first detected in South Africa by scientists.

US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy.
Dr. Vivek Murthy said that “millions of people who are still unvaccinated” face the greatest risk.
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

“The important thing is, as we work hard to gain answers to the three critical questions about Omicron, about its transmissibility, its severity and its response to our vaccines and therapeutics, it’s critical that people know we do have tools that we can use right now to protect ourselves against this variant and against the Delta variant, which is still the predominant variant in the United States,” Murthy said.

Omicron has been found so far in at least 15 states, including New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and California, health officials said.

Holiday dinner table.
If you follow precautions, “your risk can be quite low and your holidays can be quite fulfilling,” Dr. Vivek Murthy explained.
Getty Images

Experts have said they’re still researching whether the new variant is resistant to vaccines or causes more severe disease.

In the meantime, federal regulators are already in talks to streamline the review process for an Omicron-specific vaccine if one is necessary, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

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