AMERICANS should take rapid coronavirus tests before visiting their family and consider canceling their Christmas plans, an expert says.
The Omicron coronavirus variant is spreading around the world, sparking fears among top US scientists that the strain could have a serious impact on health systems.
Professor David Celentano, an epidemiologist at The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, urged Americans to take rapid tests before heading out, and avoid large crowds if they can.
He told The Sun: “I’m afraid it’s going to be another year where the holiday season is not going to be merry and bright.”
He warned that even those who have been triple vaccinated or received their Covid-19 booster can still contract the virus.
He added: “There’s no magic bullet here.”
Celentano recommended that Americans should wear M95 and KN95 face masks when in crowded spaces.
The fabric in N95 masks is thought to help reduce airborne particles from entering your nose and mouth.
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Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that masks should have two or more layers of washable and breathable fabric.
It should have a nose wire that prevents air from leaking out of the top of the face covering.
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Masks should completely cover your nose and mouth and fit tightly against the sides of your face.
Some Americans may not be able to wear a mask because of a disability, or if it causes the wearer severe distress.
When asked by The Sun if Americans should think about canceling their festive celebrations, Celentano replied: “Absolutely.”
The stark warning comes as Omicron continues to march across the US.
According to CDC data published on Monday, more than 73 percent of new Covid-19 cases in the US were caused by Omicron.
Meanwhile, the prevalence of the Delta variant – which had been the dominant strain since July – had dipped by 26 percent.
Scientists do not know if Omicron is deadlier than variants such as Delta, however, to date there has only been one confirmed death from the new variant in the US.
Omicron reportedly makes up at least 90 percent of new Covid infections in New York, New Jersey, parts of the Midwest, South, and Pacific Northwest.
CDC officials said: “This sharp rise in Omicron cases was expected and is similar to what has been seen worldwide.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top coronavirus chief, told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday: “It’s (Omicron) going to take over. And be prudent in everything else you do: When you travel, in your indoor settings that are congregated: wear a mask.
“Because with Omicron that we’re dealing with, it’s going to be a tough few weeks to months as we get into the winter.”
And, epidemiologist Michael Osterholm – director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, warned last week that the US could experience a “viral blizzard”.
The first Omicron-related death was reported in Harris County, Texas.
Officials said that an unvaccinated man, between 50 and 60, had been infected with the virus twice before.
The victim also had underlying health conditions, according to Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
President Biden is set to outline a series of measures to help guide Americans through the winter amid the surge in Omicron cases.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki revealed Monday that Biden doesn't plan to impose any coronavirus-related lockdowns.
The government is expected to purchase around 500million rapid tests, shipping them for free to citizens in the new year.
He plans to boost support for hospitals under strain and urge Americans to get vaccinated.
Around 40million eligible Americans remain unvaccinated, according to the latest data.
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