People wait outside in the falling snow for a COVID-19 test in Boston

Biden says U.S. is on the right track in fight against COVID-19

By Jeff Mason and Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden on Tuesday expressed confidence the United States was on the right track in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, even as the country grapples with a surge in infections sparked by the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

White House officials have said the situation is different from previous stages of the pandemic because more people are getting protection from vaccinations and booster shots.

“I’m confident we are on the right track,” Biden told reporters on Tuesday.

However, Biden acknowledged that he was concerned about the pace at which the virus was spreading worldwide because, “it’s not slowing up very much.”

While COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is potentially less severe, health officials have warned that the sheer number of infections could strain hospital systems, some of which have already suspended elective procedures as they struggle to handle the increase in patients and staff shortages.

The United States reported 1.35 million new coronavirus infections on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, the highest daily total for any country in the world, driven by the Omicron variant.

There were more than 136,604 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States, surpassing the record of 132,051 set in January last year, according to the tally for Monday.

The surge in cases has disrupted schools, which are struggling with absences of staff, teachers and bus drivers.

A redesigned COVID-19 vaccine that specifically targets the Omicron variant is likely needed, Pfizer Inc’s chief executive said on Monday, adding his company could have one ready to launch by March.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason in Washington and Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Chris Gallagher; Editing by Bill Berkrot)