State health officials monitor omicron variant; say NJ residents should continue taking precautions
State and federal health officials are working to create a plan on how to combat the spread of COVID-19 this winter amid the emergence of the omicron variant.
President Joe Biden said that his plan would not include any mass shutdowns. Gov. Phil Murphy also addressed the variant at his Monday COVID-19 briefing.
“Do not get hysterical. That is not warranted. We just don’t know enough,” he said.
The United States has issued a travel ban on several African countries because of the variant. Murphy said on Monday that he does not anticipate bringing back any COVID-19 restrictions like indoor mask mandates.
“Nothing at the moment. I think it’s going to be, ‘We’re going to have to find our way forward,’” Murphy said.
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State health officials will be keeping a close eye on the variant and how it spreads over the next few weeks.
“I worry more about downplaying than overplaying,” Murphy said.
The governor and health officials cautioned that there is still much that they do not know about the variant.
“We just don’t know enough right now,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan.
Tan said omicron is worrying because of its mutations.
“Some of these mutations right now might be in areas that might potentially impact immune response, vaccine efficacy and transmissibility,” she said.
She said that reports of people with omicron having only mild symptoms are anecdotal for now.
Officials said that for now, the best strategies to fight omicron are the ones New Jersey residents have been using for nearly two years to fight the virus.
“Get vaccinated, get boosted if you're eligible, wear a face covering, wear a mask if you're indoors,” Murphy said. “Are we taking this seriously? Are we sober about it? Are we going to look to make decisions based on the science and the data and the facts as they become known? Absolutely.”
The governor also spoke with members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force about the variant, following his briefing.