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Omicron COVID Strain
The new COVID variant was initially detected in South Africa and Botswana and sparked major concerns due to its high number of mutations (32). The WHO dubbed the strain Omicron and warned it may prove to be more transmissible and dangerous than other coronavirus variants.

Biden's Attempt at Sending Message of Return to Normalcy Thwarted by New COVID Variant

© REUTERS / TASOS KATOPODISU.S. President Joe Biden speaks to the media before entering Nantucket Bookworks bookstore following lunch with family at the Nantucket Tap Room, in Nantucket island, Massachusetts, U.S, November 26, 2021. REUTERS/Tasos Katopodis/File Photo
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to the media before entering Nantucket Bookworks bookstore following lunch with family at the Nantucket Tap Room, in Nantucket island, Massachusetts, U.S, November 26, 2021. REUTERS/Tasos Katopodis/File Photo - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.11.2021
Polls suggest that the handling of the pandemic in the US is one of the main reasons for the ongoing decline in Biden's approval ratings, which have dropped from around 55% to roughly 41.7% in less than a year.
US President Joe Biden and members of his family arrived on the island of Nantucket – Biden's long-time Thanksgiving getaway spot – earlier this week in an attempt to deliver a message that the country is slowly returning to normalcy and people can once again spend major holidays with their families (unlike in 2020).
"This year, the blessings of Thanksgiving are especially meaningful. After being apart last year, we have a new appreciation for those little moments we can't plan or replicate", Joe and Jill Biden said in a video address on 25 November.
Yet, that message was soon thwarted by the news of the emergence of the B.1.1.529 variant of coronavirus, now known as "Omicron", which is feared to be resistant to existing COVID vaccines due to the extensive mutations of its spike protein. Hot on the heels of these reports, several countries (with the US joining them soon after) closed their borders to arrivals from South Africa, where this variant was discovered.
Stock markets around the globe, including in the US, were also quick to react, with a sharp fall across most industries that sent the Dow Jones index down by around 900 points on Friday. Investors feared the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, which might once again see new lockdowns and another slowdown of economic activity akin to that witnessed in 2020.

New Variant Emerges as Old Problems Remain

The emergence of the potentially dangerous COVID variant, which still needs to be studied, is far from being the only problem facing the Biden administration and the president has been consistently losing support in large part due to his handling of the pandemic, according to polls.
CNN questioned business owners and associations on Nantucket, where the Bidens had arrived, and found out that, like in many other places across the US, they're suffering from the same plights caused by the pandemic. One of the most frequently raised issues is the shortage of labour. Many businesses still have vacant positions and are struggling to keep running amid staff shortages as few people are ready to apply to work.
One of the interviewees, who works at a local FedEx, told CNN that one of the reasons for the shortage is the scarcity of J-1 visas issued for foreign workers. The Nantucket Department of Public Works, in turn, complained about being "crippled" as many first responders, teachers, and police officers had left their positions.
Reports of their exodus first emerged in August – not long before President Biden declared the first vaccination mandates that primarily affected government workers, including first responders.
Another pandemic-related issue is rising inflation, rent rates, and lack of affordable housing, CNN reports. Many of the interviewees in Nantucket pointed to these problems, complaining they often had to have two jobs to afford the cost of living. Inflation rates in the US made headlines this month as they reached 30-year highs by the end of October. Even though battling it was designated as one of the White House's priorities, Biden decided to keep the man in charge of the country's fiscal policy, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell, in power for another term.
Пациент скорой помощи в Нью-Йорке - Sputnik International, 1920, 25.11.2021
Pandemic Persists: US Has Observed More COVID Deaths in 2021 Than 2020, CDC Data Shows
The administration is still struggling to deal with both the spread of the coronavirus and the consequences of the pandemic, while the president's plunging approval rating, which dipped to 41.7% this week according to polls, threatens to cause a shellacking for the Democratic Party in the 2022 midterms. Only time and research will tell if the Omicron strain will put more on the White House's plate.
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