Biden, governors to meet as states brace for holiday Omicron spike

Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread in Manhattan, New York City WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden and his White House COVID-19 response team planned to meet on Monday with the group representing the country’s governors as the Omicron variant spread across U.S. states this holiday week.

Rising cases snarled air travel over Christmas weekend as flight crews contracted the virus, causing thousands of flight cancellations. Curtailed cruises and a lack of widely available testing crimped other plans as the more transmissible variant took hold.

U.S. airlines canceled about 800 flights on Monday, with the fourth straight day of cancellations reigniting concerns that Omicron could hamper the economy heading into 2022.

U.S. COVID-19 infections are increasing, with 205,509 new infections reported on average each day, a Reuters tally showed.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards on Sunday said hospitalizations in his state doubled in one week as his health department urged caution ahead of New Year’s Day.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease official, on Monday urged people to avoid large New Year’s gatherings to reduce the Omicron-driven spike in cases.

While officials have said people can safely gather with their families if they are vaccinated, larger celebrations are riskier.

"When we are talking about a New Year’s Eve party … I would recommend strongly stay away from that this year. There will be other years to do that, but not this year," Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, told CNN.

Fauci added that he hoped the surging cases would subside in January but that more infections overall could still overwhelm hospitals, especially in highly unvaccinated areas.

"We really still need to be extremely careful," he said separately on MSNBC.

Biden last week announced reinforcements to bolster hospitals and testing, but some healthcare experts say that effort is too little, too late

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional repporting by Ankur Banerjee; Editing by Howard Goller)

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