By Brandon Moseley

President Joseph R. Biden (D) addressed the country on Tuesday about the pending threat that the nation faces as the new omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading across the U.S. as millions of Americans prepare for the Christmas holidays.

“We should all be concerned about omicron, but not panicked,” Biden said.

Meanwhile, gubernatorial candidate Lindy Blanchard (R) said if she is governor, there will be no mandates or shutdowns due to the virus.

“Alabamians will reject any calls for more mandates, shutdowns or vaccine requirements," said Blanchard. "Joe Biden should stop attacking and scapegoating the unvaccinated. As the conservative outsider for governor, I’ll lead and not scapegoat the unvaccinated like career politicians in this state have done.”

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R), who Blanchard is challenging in the Republican primary, is urging all eligible Alabamians to get the COVID-19 vaccine but is challenging the legality of Biden’s controversial vaccine mandates in federal court.

On Dec. 17, Ivey announced on social media, “I’ve submitted a formal letter to the Office of Management and Budget on opposing the Biden Administration’s federal contractor mandate. I will continue pushing back every step of the way, any way we know how. You can be pro-vaccine while being anti-mandate. #alpolitics.”

Biden outlined his plan Tuesday to combat the threat. He said he will increase testing, speed up the vaccination campaign and boost the capacity of hospitals that could be inundated in the coming weeks. He made it clear that although infections are rising, the nation is in a far different place than it was last year.

"We'll see some vaccinated people get COVID, potentially large numbers,"  Biden said.

The President stressed the importance of getting vaccinated for COVID-19.

"Vaccinated people who get COVID may get ill but they're protected from severe illness and death,” Biden said. “If you’re not fully vaccinated, you have good reason to be concerned.”

According to the CDC in October, unvaccinated people are 14 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than vaccinated people. The CDC data does not include omicron variants as it has just arrived in the country this month.  Early data from Great Britain claims to show that the vaccine is only 30% effective against omicron though that jumps to 75% effective if the person also had received a booster shot.

The omicron variant is now the main variant in the United States, overtaking delta in just the last week. Omicron now makes up 73% of cases according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new variant has spread much faster than experts had expected, but there is early evidence that it may not be as deadly as delta and some of the earlier strains.

A Texas man who tested positive for the omicron variant died on Monday. He was unvaccinated. He also had underlying health issues.

The President announced that the federal government was purchasing 500 million fast at-home COVID tests that Americans can take when they feel ill or believe that they were exposed to the virus.

“This is not March of 2020,” Biden said. “We're prepared; we know more.”

Biden also announced that he is mobilizing 1,000 military health personnel if hospitals need them, as well as resources from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help with staffing and adding beds. Additionally, the President has instructed FEMA to set up emergency vaccination sites.

To read the President's COVID-19 Winter Action Plan, click here.

As of press time 880,990 American deaths are listed as COVID-19 related. That includes 16,368 Alabamians. Omicron was only confirmed in Alabama last Wednesday.

2,199,137 Alabamians have been fully vaccinated and 519,760 of those have also received the booster shot.

The Republican primary will be on May 24, 2022,

(Original reporting by the Hill contributed to this report.)

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