With a second case of the omicron variant of COVID-19 confirmed in the United States, White House press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged, "We do anticipate there will be more cases" in spite of travel bans imposed on southern African countries and additional containment measures announced Thursday.
"The restrictions we put in place were not going to prevent this variant from coming here. It would just slow it. That was the objective," Psaki said. "So, we do anticipate there will be more cases, and we know that will be the case, and that's why we're focused on doing everything we can to fight the virus and the variant."
WHITE HOUSE COVID MESSAGING RISKS CONFUSING PUBLIC OVER VACCINES AND VARIANTS
A Minnesota resident who traveled to an anime convention in New York tested positive for the omicron variant on Nov. 24, days before travel restrictions were announced against a host of southern African nations where the variant was first confirmed.
The person, who was vaccinated, developed only mild symptoms and has recovered.
The Biden administration has rolled out a nine-pronged strategy to fight COVID-19 as the winter months set in, which includes directing private health insurers to cover the costs of at-home coronavirus tests for roughly 150 million people.
Administration officials say that in addition to covering the costs of at-home rapid tests, "tightening" pre-departure testing requirements for international travelers will "help catch more cases, potential cases of people who may be positive before they fly into the country." Flyers, regardless of vaccination status or nationality, will now be required to show proof of a negative antigen test no more than one day prior to departure for the U.S.
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"The president continues to believe that if we build on the bold steps that we've taken to date, if we continue to make vaccines more accessible and increase testing and masking, we can return to a version of normal in this country," Psaki said. "That's what everyone wants and everyone wants to see."