By Jeff Mason and Ahmed Aboulenein
(Reuters) -It is too early to know whether Omicron variant of COVID-19 will lead to severe disease, but preliminary information from South Africa indicates it does not result in unusual symptoms, top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday.
Fauci said there were 226 confirmed cases of the variant in 20 countries as of Tuesday morning but Omicron had not been detected yet in the United States.
Fears about the variant have rattled financial markets and sparked concerns about the strength of the global economic recovery as the world continues to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
"It is very difficult to know whether or not this particular variant is going to result in severe disease," Fauci told reporters in a briefing. "Although some preliminary information from South Africa suggests no unusual symptoms ... we do not know, and it is too early to tell."
President Joe Biden and his administration have pressed Americans to take advantage of vaccines and booster shots, but vaccine hesitancy in a segment of the U.S. population has thwarted efforts to tame the virus' spread. About 69% of Americans aged 12 and up are fully vaccinated.
"We are hoping, and I think with good reason, to feel good that there will be some degree of protection," against the variant from the vaccines, Fauci said. "If you're unvaccinated, get vaccinated. And if you're vaccinated, get boosted."
Biden, whose poll numbers have suffered in part amid frustration that the pandemic is not under control, on Monday urged Americans not to panic about the new variant.
"To beat the pandemic, we have to vaccinate the world as well," the president said.
Asked on Tuesday if the United States was doing enough to vaccinate the rest of the world, Fauci noted the United States was doing more than other nations.
"'Enough' is a tough word. Are we doing a lot? We are doing an awful lot," he said.
Fauci said getting vaccines into people's arms in southern African countries and other low- and middle-income countries had proven difficult logistically and many doses that were shipped went unused.
"Other African countries ... have actually told us not to ship any more vaccine because they have not been able to adequately utilize it," he said.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Ahmed Aboulenein; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman)
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch (R) defended her state's 15-week abortion ban on Tuesday by insisting that today's women are empowered with benefits like maternity care.
Fitch made the remarks on Fox News just one day before the U.S. Supreme Court convenes to hear arguments in the case against the abortion ban.
"What do you say to a woman who does not share your point of view," Fox News host Martha MacCallum asked, "who says that she believes that she has the right over her own body to make that decision and she does not want that right to be taken away from her?"
"You know, for 50 years, we didn't really help those women," Fitch replied. "We didn't talk about how we could empower them, we didn't talk about opportunities, where if you look at the statistics now, I mean, women are successful. We have been able to balance our professional lives and our family lives. We didn't do that before."
"And now you have maternity leave, paternity leave, so many things that were not available to women," she added. "And so, now is the right time to have that conversation."
Zippia estimates that only 16% of women working in private industries have access to paid maternity leave.
Watch the video below from Fox News.
MAGA-rioting Jesus Christ Superstar actor says he 'can only come to court by special divine appearance'
Alleged MAGA rioter James Beeks, who until recently was an actor in a traveling production of the musical "Jesus Christ: Superstar," is using language commonly associated with sovereign citizens in his court filings.
NBC 4 Washington's Scott MacFarlane on Tuesday flagged Beeks's latest court filing, in which he described himself as "a living breathing sentient being on the land, a natural creation of the Father (God)."
Furthermore, Beeks informed the court that he would "be making a special appearance in court at the appointed time and date whether in physical for or in virtual form."
At the end, he added that "I can only come to court by special divine appearance."
The 49-year-old Beeks was arrested last week in Milwaukee, where he and his troupe were preparing to put on a production of "Jesus Christ: Superstar" in which Beeks would be playing the role of Judas.
Beeks has since been charged with obstruction of Congress, a felony, and a misdemeanor charge of unlawfully entering a restricted building or grounds.
Additionally, court records claim that Beeks is a member of the Oath Keepers milita.