By Ashley Dyer

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – There’s a new wave of COVID-19 as we approach the holidays.

The omicron variant has been detected in at least 14 countries, prompting a travel ban from South Africa and seven other Southern African countries.  The travel ban is effective Monday.

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Monday morning, President Joe Biden ensured the country that this variant is a cause for concern but not for panic. He said the best protection against the new variant is the vaccine and booster shot.

As of now, there aren’t any confirmed cases of omicron in the United States. But, unfortunately, experts warn the variant may already be here.

“I think the virus has taught us that by the time we detect a variant, it’s reach is far beyond the place where it was originally detected,” said Rossana Rosa, an infectious disease specialist at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

According to the National Institute of Health, omicron has many mutations and more than 50 variants that make it different than the original virus.

“Is this more transmissible?  Does it make people sicker?  What is the pattern of shedding, the pattern of infections?  All of these are thing scientists around the world are trying to answer,” said Rosa.

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Rosa said surges are always possible.  She said masks and social distancing are once again a good idea.

“Certainly, we are always prepared, we continue to monitor our number of cases daily, we continue to monitor trends.  We haven’t let our guard down we are very much still in alert,” she explained.

It’ll take several weeks to tell if antibodies protect against this variant and how effective our vaccines are.

“COVID remains very much a part of our daily lives. Getting vaccinated, wearing masks, avoiding large indoor gatherings, all those things are things that we need to continue doing,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, President Joe Biden said we are in better shape this holiday season than we were last year with most Americans fully vaccinated.

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He and Dr. Anthony Fauci say the next step for protection is getting your booster shot.