WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The number of COVID-19 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 government’s vaccine mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees won’t be immediately enforced, but health officials emphasize the importance of getting vaccinated to fight the pandemic.
“It is really very unpredictable, very much so, particularly with the element of variants,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said.
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,” National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins said.
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,” Collin said.
As litigation continues regarding the vaccine mandates, officials hope this latest surge of a very contagious variant will encourage more people to get the necessary shots.
“There’s certainly some change that our hospitals are going to be pretty stressed; they already are, of course with Delta, of course,” Collin said. “The government is prepared now to send out surge teams as needed.”
Several petitions have been filed asking the U.S. 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.