In his remarks on Monday, Mr. Biden promised that he “spared no effort, removed all roadblocks to ensure the safety of the American people.”
The promise came as some Republicans seized on the existence of another variant to attack the president. The Republican National Committee released a statement saying “Biden failed to stop the virus as he promised.” Representative Ronny Jackson from Texas, who served as President Donald J. Trump’s White House doctor, suggested that Omicron was created by liberals eager to impose new Covid restrictions.
White House officials have dismissed political criticism. Natalie Quillian, deputy Covid-19 response coordinator, said the potential dangers of the new variant were serious enough to spark a wave of meetings between heads of several agencies, calls with pharmaceutical companies and urgent messages to health officials in other countries.
“There was a feeling of worry, the feeling that it felt different from the other variations,” Ms. Quillian said. “It had enough markers to differentiate in the level of worry we felt. We kind of got into action Thursday night and Friday.
The new variant turned the Thanksgiving holiday upside down for administration officials and top scientists, who had scattered across the country for the celebrations.
The variant was identified by South African scientists on Thursday afternoon, as many U.S. officials sat down to dinner. Shortly before midnight, Dr David A. Kessler, scientific director of the government’s response to the coronavirus, contacted a South African partnership, which returned a genomic sequencing report on the variant.
Dr Fauci and Dr Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the CDC, were in contact with their counterparts in South Africa late on Thanksgiving Day. Jeff Zients, the president’s Covid-19 response coordinator, and others spent most of the night making calls.