With a huge surge in COVID-19 cases thanks to the omicron variant – federal health officials say it’s now the variant in more than 70% of new cases – President Joe Biden today announced a series of moves he’s making to fight the spread.
The moves Biden announced to combat the virus included the shipping of 500 million home-testing kits, thousands of new testing sites and the mobilization of 1,000 members of the U.S. military to help hospitals with staffing issues. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will also deploy to set up overflow operations for hospitals that are at capacity
“While COVID has been a tough adversary, we’ve shown that we’re tougher,” Biden said. “Tougher because we have the power of science and vaccines that prevent illness and save lives. And tougher because of our resolve.”
According to a White House press release, key steps to Biden’s new plan to fight COVID-19 include:
- Standing up new federal testing sites around the country, helping states that need additional testing capacity. The first will be stood up in New York City this week.
- The administration will purchase a half-billion at-home, rapid tests this winter to be distributed for free to Americans who want them, with the initial delivery starting in January. The administration will establish a website where Americans can go to get at-home tests delivered to their home—for free.
“We need to do better with at-home testing,” Biden said. “We’ll be getting these tests to Americans for free. We’ve arranged for it to be easier for you to find free COVID testing sites near you on Google.”
- Deploying Federal Medical Personnel Available to States Immediately: Six emergency response teams—with more than 100 clinical personnel and paramedics—are deploying to six states now: Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire and Vermont. This is on top of the 300 federal medical personnel that we have deployed since the onset of Omicron.
- FEMA will activate additional staffing and capacity for the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) and FEMA regions, and to mobilize planning teams to work with every state and territory to assess hospital needs ahead of winter surges, and to start expanding hospital bed capacity now—with the federal government paying for all of it. The Administration is also pre-positioning the federal government’s own supplies and resources to help make more beds available.
“While we know staffing is the biggest need for hospitals … some may need more beds as well,” Biden said. “Our doctors, nurses and hospital staffs have gone above and beyond during this pandemic. The strain and stress is real, and we’ll have their backs. We have to let them know we have their backs.”
- FEMA is standing up new pop-up vaccination clinics across the country. This includes a new mobile unit in Washington, and four new mobile units across New Mexico that are opening today. FEMA will help stand up additional sites in areas of high demand over the coming weeks.
Biden spent a good deal of the press conference urging those who are unvaccinated to get the shots, including the booster, pointing out his belief that many of the 400,000 deaths this calendar year “were preventable.”
“All these people who’ve not been vaccinated … have an obligation to yourselves, to your families and, quite frankly, to your country,” Biden said. “(Vaccination) saves lives … and I honest to God believe it’s your patriotic duty.”