WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The number of COVID cases across the country is rising ahead of the holidays, prompting new concerns about hospital capacity and the economy. Meanwhile, an appeals court has reinstated President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees.
The vaccine mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees won’t be immediately enforced by the government, but health officials are emphasizing the importance of getting vaccinated to fight the pandemic. The newest variant now spreading across the U.S. is omicron, a variant initially detected in South Africa and what scientists and doctors say is very contagious.
“It is so different that it has the properties to potentially be evasive of the vaccines and the other measures that we’ve taken,” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.
Collins said while more vaccinated people are getting breakthrough cases of omicron, it’s still vital people get vaccinated and boosted when eligible. “If you’ve had vaccines and a booster you’re very well protected against omicron causing you severe disease,” he said.
As litigation continues regarding the vaccine mandates, officials are hoping this latest surge of a very contagious variant will encourage more people to get the necessary shots. “There’s certainly some chance that our hospitals are going to be pretty stressed. They already are, of course, with Delta,” Collin said. “The government is prepared now to send out surge teams as needed.”
Several petitions have been filed asking the Supreme Court to intervene in the vaccine mandate for businesses. So, while the latest ruling upheld that mandate for businesses, the legal case isn’t over.
“It is really very unpredictable, very much so, particularly with the element of variants,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said.