Retiring NIH director issues warning to ‘tired’ Americans

Follow RT on National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins has called holiday travel for unvaccinated Americans “not a great idea” and left a dire warning about Omicron cases in his final days on the job.

Whether vaccinated or not, those traveling for the holidays must do so “very carefully,” Collins told CBS’ ‘Face the Nation’ on Sunday, amid a rise in Covid-19 cases, as well as the potential threat of the Omicron variant. 

Collins admitted, however, that airplanes are a “fairly safe place” to be thanks to the numerous pandemic restrictions in place, including strict mask mandates. 

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“I think airplanes, now with required masking, probably being on an airplane is a fairly safe place to be. But think about how you’re going to get there and how you can make sure you’re safe along the way,” Collins said when discussing potential travel for the holidays. 

Those who are “vaccinated and boosted,” Collins said, must still make sure to wear their masks while traveling and mixing with others, while unvaccinated Americans, the health official added, should likely refrain from travel altogether. 

“I would say travel is really not a great idea because you are in a very vulnerable place now with Omicron,” he said. 

Collins is departing from his NIH position this month. He previously announced his departure in October after more than a decade with the health agency. 

He used one of his last days in office to issue Covid warnings to Americans feeling fatigued with pandemic restrictions and health officials’ continued promises. 

“We cannot afford to let down our guard,” he told NPR in a Sunday interview, claiming without vigilance, Omicron and other variants could push the US to facing more than one million cases a day.

“I know people are tired of this. I’m tired of it too, believe me,” he said. “But the virus is not tired of us. It’s having a great old time changing its shape every couple of months, coming up with new variants and figuring out ways to be even more contagious.” 

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