“These coming weeks are going to be challenging."
U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday tried to reassure Americans that the country could weather a record-smashing surge in cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
"We're going to get through this. We're going to get through it together."
But Biden pleaded with the country to comply with health advisories on vaccinations and masks.
"For God's sake, please take advantage of what's available."
The president said that cases of the Omicron variant were likely to rise, a day after the United States reported almost one million new coronavirus cases.
That single-day record, according to a Reuters tally, is almost double the country's previous record of just over 500,000 set just a week ago as the infectious variant shows no sign of slowing.
And as cases surge to never-seen-before levels, hospitalizations are rising too, most strikingly among those who remain unvaccinated.
A Reuters analysis showed more than 100,000 people now hospitalized with COVID-19, up almost 50 percent from a week ago.
"Unvaccinated are taking up hospital beds and crowding emergency rooms and intensive-care units."
Pediatric cases are also hitting new records, and the unrelenting surge has prompted more than 3,200 schools to close their buildings this week, according to a site that tracks school disruptions.
"We know our kids can remain safe in school, by the way. That's why I think schools should remain open."
Biden said schools could remain open safely, if they took the proper precautions.
"Rarely children can progress to severe disease. It's rare but it can happen."
Dr. Jennifer Lighter is an infectious disease specialist at NYU Langone's Children's Hospital.
She told Reuters she believed schools should remain open, but with proper screening and health protocols.
"Most transmissions do not happen within school spaces, they actually happen in the community and then children come in to school. So, I think schools are essential institutions that should remain open."