this is "nightline." tonight, the cause for concern this holiday season. the new covid-19 variant spreading from southern africa, and raising questions here at home. >> you have to get your vaccine. >> we're with one nurse on the frontlines throughout the pandemic. >> i am definitely worried. we know it's coming. >> what you need to know about omicron, the new strain. plus, the life and legacy virgil abloh. how he reimagined the house of howie vuiton. and inspiring drake to say life is good. ♪ ♪ >> "nightline" will be right back.
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omicron, raises global concerns, and sparks fresh travel bans. >> reporter: even through the masks, you can see the emotion at the airport in newark, new jersey. these two sisters reunited after a crazy few days trying to get out of south africa. the backlog, all thanks to a heavily mutated covid variant called omicron. first discovered in botswana. today, the biden administration's new travel ban on eight southern african countries going into effect. >> i think it's better to be safer than sorry. >> people were afraid of not getting back home instead of being afraid of the virus. >> this variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic. we have the best vaccine in the world. the best medicines. the best scientists. and we're learning more every single day. >> we've had probably ten bookings between friday and today of flights that haven't
worked out. >> reporter: some americans forced to cut their trip short, scrambling to find flights home, like lauren kennedy brady and her family. >> i understand there's a more global and bigger picture than my family. but i would like to get home and quarantine at home. >> reporter: south africa was the first nation to notify the world health organization about omicron. the variant now being detected in more than 15 countries, including canada. so far, the u.s. is not on that list. >> we have a pretty good surveillance system, but as we all know, when you have a virus that has already gone to multiple countries, inevitably it will be here. the question is, will we be prepared for it? >> this variant may be more resistance to antibodies and vaccines than some of the previous variants. however, that's really a speculation at this point, and we don't know for sure. >> reporter: south africa openly criticized the u.s. and other countries imposing the travel bans, as its summer tourism season gets underway.
saying it's being punished for doing the right thing. >> travel restrictions can slow the speed of omicron, it cannot prevent it. but it gives us time, gives us time to take more actions. >> reporter: while omicron hasn't officially surfaced in the states yet, covid cases are increasing. >> i'm calling because his covid test came back positive. >> reporter: she knows what she's talking about. a traveling nurse on the frontlines for nearly all of the pandemic. >> i'm traveling to new york tomorrow. >> reporter: she left her husband and four children back in georgia, to work in new york city. >> being there, i live it, breathe it every day. we're on this seemingly never end ferris wheel, reminding patient and families that covid is still very much real, and we are very much in the middle of it. >> reporter: she's been at a mask testing site at laguardia airport for most of the last year. >> last year, we were seeing
case sort of drop heading into the summer. but here we are, back in the winter again. people are inside, and we're seeing numbers go up. and so i'm definitely worried, because we don't know much about the new variant. we know that it's inevitable that it's coming. however, we just don't know. it takes time to gather all the necessary information in order to put the right information out there. >> reporter: that winter spike already underway across the country. 35 states and washington, d.c. are seeing covid-19 cases increase. >> we talked about this variant. we know it's coming. but here's the good news. we're not defenseless. >> reporter: in new york, the governor already declaring a state of emergency, as covid cases rise. in order to boost hospital capacity later this week, elective procedures will be canceled another any hospital that's short staffed. and new york city has already reinstated its indoor mask
mandate. but many states and cities taking a wait and see approach. >> ohioans are resilient and tough. we'll take whatever is coming our way, vaccinations are still the most important thing that you can do. and as far as this new variant, let's wait until we get more facts about it. >> reporter: despite a projected rise in covid-19 cases this winter, joe biden vowing no more lockdowns. >> i'll be putting forward a detailed strategy outlining how we'll fight covid this wenter. not with shutdowns or lockdowns. but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more. >> reporter: over the next several weeks, scientist also be looking at, number one, whether the variant is, indeed, more transmissible than the current delta variant. and number two, whether this variant can, indeed, evade vaccines. >> reporter: dan baruch has been studying covid variants throughout the pandemc and was
instrumental in developing the johnson & johnson vaccine. >> currently in africa, there is less than a 7% vaccination rate. so it's not a surprise that new variants are emerging in that part of the world. the only way to stop these variants is really to have a widespread vaccination campaign that really reaches all four corners of the planet. >> america is leading that effort. now we need the rest of the world to step up, as well. >> reporter: joe biden is acknowledging many americans may be tired of the vaccination push. but insists that's the best protection out there. >> most americans are fully vaccinated. but not yet boosted. if you're 18 years or over, and got fully vaccinated before june the 1st, go get the booster shot today. >> and any plans to travel? >> reporter: from her place at the forefront of the fight against covid, decoya >> it's not a cause for panic,
but cause for concern. it's taking the necessary measures. it's everybody doing their part to help manage so we can get back to namal si. >> reporter: she remains committed to battling the virus, but soon she'll be doing it back home full time.pher testing sit down. and by the beginning of 2022, she'll be back with her kids, to stay. >> i came to new york april 4th of 2020 and the little ones, they were only three months old, premature. and n and now on december 30th, i will have a 6-year-old old and an 18-year-old. i've missed too much. they're good kids, but they need mom there. there's things dad can't teach
them. >> now for more on the new variant, earlier this evening, i spoke to dean of the brown university school of public health. doctor, thanks for joining us. >> thank you so much for having me back. >> you've said that it's likely that omicron variant is already here in the u.s. so how did it get that confirmation, and what are the best tools in our arsenal to fight it? >> yeah, i do think it's likely here. we are going to identify it probably in the next couple of days. we have a robust surveillance system in the united states. and if it is here and if it's spreading, we will find it in the next few days. so i'm confident about that. in terms of what we do to fight it, the single biggest thing right now is for people to be vaccinated and boosted. >> yet, the number of covid cases we've seen creep up in recent months, is this is a sign that many of the vaccines we got in the last few months is wearing off, and how effective do you think our current vaccines are in fighting the
variant down the road? >> most of the cases are still hopping among unvaccinated people. about 80% of cases are still in unvaccinated people. so the vaccines are largely holding up pretty well. particularly if you look at it through the lens of hospitalizations and deaths. but there's no doubt we are seeing a waning once you get about six months out of your second shot. so that's why what's really clear at this point is that's why we need boosters so badly. they really do finish that series. my sense is that a year from now we're going to refer to this as a three-shot vaccine. the third shot is going to be important for future variants. >> third time is a charm. omicron, is highlighting the need for vaccine equity around the world. >> americans, we care about other people in the world and in
that light, it is important enough to make sure people around the world are being saved from this very bad virus that's circulating. the second is what we know is when there are large outbreaks among unvaccinated people, that's really the kind of recipe for more variants. and variants, including omicron that can potentially challenge our vaccines. so even from a selfish reasons, we want the world vaccinated. but of course, i think we want it because it's the right thing to do, as well. >> dr. jha, thank you so much for your expertise and your wisdom. >> thank you. coming up, how the visionary that was virgil abloh brought streetware to the cat walk of louis vuitton. people everywhere living with type 2 diabetes are waking up to what's possible... ...with rybelsus®.
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tequila herradura. extraordinary awaits. tributes continue to pour in for virgil abloh, a breakout creative visionary who left the world of fashion, but not before opening new doors for other young black designers. daring them to dream of a world where couture could be inspired by one's identity. ♪ ♪ >> reporter: virgil abloh's designs reached further than fashion. the american designer's unique esthetics, couture of high fashion. all through a pair of simple quotation marks.
his work, eliciting one of the most iconic images of today's modern era. some of the most sought after merchandise in all of fashion. from street wear to the likes of louis vuitton. >> becoming artistic director at men's wear for louis vuitton was enormous. it was an incredible opportunity. >> reporter: the industry giant, passing away shockingly over the weekend at the age of 41. after a private, two-year battle with a rare and aggressive cancer that attacks the heart. >> the signs tend to be fairly nonspecific. by the time you find it, it's usually already spread. >> reporter: the world abloh had built and the cultures he managed to marry, emblematic in the tributes that came pouring in, from the likes of versace, to hip-hop star drake. >> he was endlessly curious and
creative, truly prolific and original. >> reporter: he was born in 1980, to parents from ghana, in rockford, illinois. >> coming from this immigrant family, that was really -- they had high ambitions for him. his background was in civil engineering, and in ark tes architecture. but his mother was very adept at -- as a seamstress or at sewing. >> reporter: he had no normal fashion training. instead, earning a masters degree in architecture, before rising to prominence as the right hand man and artistic director of kanye west. now known as ye. in an interview with charlemagne god, he detailed how important it was to his creative process. >> i'm thinking of all these ideas, and virgil is able to take all of those ideas and then architect them.
because he is an architect. >> reporter: in 2013, abloh launched the iconic brand off white. which collaborating with top brands like levi's and nike. serena williams even wearing it to the french open. his unique style employed techniques akin to hip-hop. sampling or borrowing from those that came before him. >> there's a difference between drawing inspiration from previous works, and sampling it. and with the sampling, you could readily identify exactly what he was drawing from. and you can mix and match them and use them in new ways for put them into a different context. and by putting them into a different context, you have or perhaps you haven't, that's the debate, created something entirely new. >> reporter: and his work wasn't
limited to apparel. including ikea. and another collaboration with evan. hot white was named hottest brand of the wld and virgil one of the hottest designers in the world. name dropped bety likes of drake -- >> haven't done by taxes. >> reporter: 2 chains. and young thug. ♪ ♪ also in 2018, abloh became the artistic director of louis vuitton men's wear, making him one of the most powerful black executives in fashion. >> louis vuitton is one of the largest fashion conglomerates in the world. so to be able to step into that role as a black american was huge. as much as fashion likes to
believe that it is an industry of risk taking, one area in which that has long been risk averse is in the area of zi versety of brands like this. >> reporter: and he still found time to deejay, one of his first loves. his day-to-day was spent on runways and cat walks. he felt that music and fashion blended together. telling the bbc this. >> as someone who doesn't see the line between music and fax, i'm all about cross pollonizing. i love how those worlds have gotten closer. >> reporter: despite his rapid ascension, achieving pinnacles in the fashion world, he made sure to pay it forward, paving a road in an industry where opportunities were so few and far between. >> he inspired, i think, a generation of black designers to
believe that the system could work for them. and that they didn't have to dismantle it in order to excel. he worked to raise around $1 million to fund a scholarship in new york that was specifically earmarked for black designers. but also black business people who wanted to be on the business side of fashion. >> reporter: even after his private struggle with cancer began, he shared some of his hard learned wisdom with the fund last year. >> if there's anything you take away from me and my career to your open stown story, don't lee put you in a box. i don't see any box. that's my freedom. up next, it's looking a lot like christmas at the white house. ♪ ♪
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year. decking the halls of the white house. this year's theme, gifts from the heart. first responders and frontline workers, honored in a 350-pound ginger bread village, featuring a school, hospital, and firehouse. countless treats. happy holidays. that's "nightline." watch all of our full episodes on hulu. see you back here same time tomorrow. thanks for staying up with us. good night, america.