Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called for people to be "more vigilant" on Sunday in light of the omicron variant reaching the U.S., but advised against panicking.
Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Murthy told host Chris Wallace that while there is still much that is left to be learned about the omicron variant, the existing guidelines to limit the spread of the coronavirus are still expected to work.
"We do know that the measures that we take to protect ourselves from the spread of COVID, including wearing masks in indoor spaces, being in well ventilated spaces. Those work... and will work against Omicron," said Murthy.
Murthy added that while the degree of protection offered from current COVID-19 vaccines against omicron is unknown, data has consistently shown that they protect against more severe disease, hospitalizations and death.
The omicron variant has been detected in at least 15 U.S. states so far, including California, Colorado, Minnesota, New York and Wisconsin.
Wallace pressed Murthy on whether he has any concerns that omicron will worsen the pandemic but the surgeon general would only emphasize taking existing precautionary measures.
"I certainly am concerned about the possibility that this is going to spread, you know, more easily than other variants that we've seen today. And we've got to get more data, like I said, to understand the exact extent of that," Murthy said.
"But I do think it's a reason for us to not necessarily panic, but just to be more vigilant and to recognize that the precautions that we had been talking about for the last year or so are all the more important now than ever," he added.
Numerous health experts have stated that it will take several weeks of testing before the omicron variant is better understood. While anecdotal reports from South Africa have said cases of omicron appear to be mild, experts have pointed out that early cases appeared to have clustered among younger people.