White House COVID-19 response team expert to South Floridians: Don’t take omicron lightly

Dr. Cameron Webb, a member of the White House COVID-19 response team, said South Floridians need to get the booster shot as omicron remains a "variant of concern."

WASHINGTON – U.S. President Joe Biden met with health experts on Thursday at the White House to get an update on the coronavirus omicron variant.

Dr. Cameron Webb, of the White House COVID-19 response team, said the purpose of the meeting was to provide useful data in “very real-time” about the most contagious variant yet.

Webb said omicron has an abnormal number of mutations. While omicron has over 50 mutations, including more than 30 on the spike protein alone, the delta has about 10 mutations.

“I think since we first heard about it on Thanksgiving we have been telling folks this is a variant of concern, that is not a designation we use lightly,” said Webb, a physician and lawyer who teaches at the University of Virginia.

President Joe Biden met with the White House COVID-19 response team on Thursday and said the unvaccinated face a higher risk of hospitalization and death.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the president, expects omicron to assume a dominant role in the United States within weeks. That’s already the case in Miami-Dade County where it took just about two weeks for it to make up for about 80% of the cases.

Webb, who is known as a champion for health equity, said it is important for South Florida residents to get the protection of the two-shot vaccines and follow up with the booster shot to restore peak protection.

“I know the weather is a little bit different in South Florida, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is a time of the year, especially with travel, that people need to be safe,” Webb said.

The Florida Department of Health reported 6,846 new cases on Wednesday, according to CDC data published on Thursday. Records show that was the highest single-day increase in Florida since Sept. 24.

Also on Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said Americans should be given the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines instead of the Johnson & Johnson shot.

More than 800,000 people, including over 62,000 in Florida, have died of COVID-19 during the pandemic.

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About the Authors:

Ben Kennedy is an Emmy Award-winning Washington Bureau Chief for Local 10 News.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.