The Omicron virus is here and is probably more widespread than currently known. Beyond that there isn’t a lot known about the latest variant of COVID-19 other than by vaccine makers. At least one company producing a therapeutic antibody treatment has told The Wall Street Journal, though, that the new variant is more resistant to treatment than the current variant, Delta, that is behind a recent spike in cases in the U.S. and elsewhere.

President Joe Biden, speaking yesterday after a meeting with retailers about the holiday shopping season and supply chain challenges, said, “The new variant is cause for concern, but not a cause for panic.” He urged unvaccinated Americans to get fully vaccinated and those that have been vaccinated to get booster shots.

Mr. Biden said that he would release “a detailed strategy” for dealing with the new variant by Thursday. The new plan, he said, would not involve “shutdowns or lockdowns” but would feature known ways to combat the virus from both a public health and individual perspective.

The federal government is limited in what it can require of individual citizens when it comes to reducing the spread of COVID-19; state and local governments have more sway. New York City has issued a health advisory recommending that residents of its five boroughs wear masks indoors and in public settings, reports The Gothamist. With this falling short of a mask mandate, the city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, is urging residents to get vaccinated as the key line of defense against the virus.

Omicron cases have been identified outside of the U.S. including nine cases in Scotland. The government has begun bringing back mask mandates for mass transit and other activities. Retailers have expressed concern about having to play mask police once again.

“We know from previous lockdowns that reminding people about face coverings and social distancing is a big trigger for abuse and [store workers] are hesitant about challenging people,” Chris Noice, a spokesperson for the Association of Convenience Stores, told The Guardian.

Businesses in the U.S. also have substantial concerns about abuse of workers. Frontline workers fear for their safety when confronted by unruly customers trying to make political statements about masks and vaccines as well as large groups of thieves engaged in organized, sometimes violent, crime in stores.


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