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(CNN)The Omicron variant of Covid-19 is raising the concerns of health officials amid the busy holiday travel season, but there is no need to panic just yet as the potential impact of the newly detected strain remains unknown, experts say.
"Any time we've seen a new variant, it's already spread around the world.
So the fact that Omicron is in multiple countries in Europe, in the US, is not necessarily an ominous sign. And I think that's a key point to keep in mind," Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN's Jim Acosta Saturday. "And also remember we've not seen any evidence that Omicron produces more severe disease than any of the other variants."The Omicron variant, which was first identified in South Africa, was deemed a variant of concern by the World Health Organization Friday -- sounding a heightened alarm globally over the state of the coronavirus pandemic, which has spanned nearly two years.
World is put on high alert over the Omicron coronavirus variantIn response, many countries, including the US, moved urgently in implementing travel bans. Besides South Africa, the newly identified variant has been detected in Australia, the UK, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Czech Republic and Hong Kong.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Friday that it has not detected any cases of the Omicron variant in the US. Read MoreBut Dr. Anthony Fauci told NBC Saturday that he would "not be surprised" if the Omicron variant is already in the US. "We have not detected it yet, but when you have a virus
that is showing this degree of transmissibility and you're having travel-related cases they've noted in other places already, when you have a virus like this, it almost invariably is going to go all over," Fauci said.Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted that travel restrictions allow health experts to have additional time to study the variant and understand it in a more significant capacity -- including whether the current vaccines are effective against Omicron. "The vaccines we use may very well be able to contain this. And then it won't be as serious as some people are surmising it might be. A lot of unknowns," Fauci told NBC. "You don't want people to panic, but you want to know we're doing everything we can to stay ahead of this." US federal health officials are working around the clock to learn more about Omicron, one official told CNN Saturday, but it could be several weeks before they know whether the fears of the highly mutated variant are justified. More contagious doesn't always mean more dangerous, expert says The Omicron strain of coronavirus is concerning to scientists because the variant's significant number of mutations could make it more contagious than the original novel coronavirus strain. But with so much still unknown, Dr. Saju Mathew, a public health specialist, told CNN Saturday that the priority is on learning more about the variant and vaccination."I take the whole position that we shouldn't panic just yet. The most important thing is to study the virus. Just because this virus is more contagious, doesn't necessarily mean that it's more dangerous," Mathew said, noting vaccinations are still vitally important. "This is the time to show up at your local pharmacy and get the vaccinations."
The new Omicron variant is a pandemic gut checkThe latest data from the CDC shows more than 196 million Americans, or 59% of the US population, are fully vaccinated. Nearly 37.5 million have received booster shots, the data shows.Vaccine maker Moderna said Friday that it's moving quickly to test the ability of its vaccine
to neutralize Omicron, and data is expected in the coming weeks.The strain includes mutations "seen in the Delta variant that are believed to increase transmissibility and mutations seen in the Beta and Delta variants that are believed to promote immune escape," Moderna said in a news release."The combination of mutations represents a significant potential risk to accelerate the waning of natural and vaccine-induced immunity."If its current vaccine and booster are insufficient against the variant, Moderna explained one possible solution is boosting people with a larger dose, which the company is testing. It also testing an Omicron-specific booster.Scientists at BioNTech, the German company that partnered with Pfizer to make its Covid-19 vaccine, are also investigating the impact of the variant on their shot, with data expected within the upcoming weeks.A Johnson & Johnson spokesperson told CNN in a statement the company was also testing the effectiveness of its vaccine against Omicron.
Scientists work on the Covid-19 at the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.Omicron will make its way around the world, expert says Dr. William Schaffner, a professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, echoed that the variant could be in the US, noting he anticipates stricter Covid-19 mitigation efforts to return. "It's going to make its way around the world. It looks like that way," Schaffner told CNN Saturday. "I think we may, indeed, be in for a phase of many more masks, much more social distancing, and more restrictions and obligations for vaccination going forward."He added that even if the Omicron variant isn't in the US, it's bound to be "soon."
Meanwhile, the US is still suffering from the Delta variant surge -- a variant the CDC has said is about as contagious as chickenpox. The average of daily deaths was more than 1,000 as of Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University, and hospitalizations in 16 states increased by more than 50% in the past week compared to the previous week, the US Health and Human Services Department said."I think we need to just get our mind set that the virus is still in control. I don't care about your covid fatigue," Schaffner said. "We're going to have to deal with this in an ongoing way very, very seriously. ... Tighten your seat belts."
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Miamis Overheated Home Prices Continue While Experts Say Red Hot Housing Market Starting To Losing Steam
MIAMI (CBSMiami/CNN) — If you’ve been waiting to buy a house, but the prices have just been way too high, you may be in luck. The red-hot housing market might finally be starting to cool, just not in Miami yet.
Home prices rose 18.8% year-over-year in November, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index. But that staggering jump was down from a 19.1% increase in October. READ MORE:
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For the past several months, prices have continued to rise at a very high rate, but the increases have been getting smaller, said Craig J. Lazzara, managing director at S&P Dow Jones Indices.
Despite the deceleration, November’s gain was the sixth highest in the 34 years covered by the index. The top five gains were notched in the months immediately preceding November.
“We continue to see very strong growth at the city level,” he said. “All 20 cities saw price increases in the year ended November 2021, and prices in 19 cities are at their all-time highs.”
Phoenix led all cities for the 30th consecutive month, with a 32.2% annual increase.
Tampa was next, up 29%, followed by Miami, which saw prices up 26.6%. Las Vegas, Dallas, and San Diego rounded out the top five. Prices were strongest in the South and Southeast, which were both up 25% or higher, but every region of the country saw gains. READ MORE:
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A persistent low inventory of homes amid strong demand has pushed prices higher. Newly constructed homes are coming, but a long-running shortage in supply in addition to the lasting effects of the pandemic mean that it will take years to meet demand.
“Increasing home prices will continue to be the norm as long as supply is restricted,” said Bill Dallas, president of Finance of America Mortgage.
But low inventory shouldn’t deter those looking for a home right now, since mortgage rates will rise throughout the year, he said.
“Homebuyers still have a few reasons to be optimistic in the near-term,” Dallas said.
Higher prices and rising interest rates may push some homeowners sitting on the sidelines to put their house on the market, Dallas said. MORE NEWS:
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