With COVID-19 cases again surging in the US because of the omicron variant, President Joe Biden unveiled new plans to increase support for hospitals, improving access to COVID-19 testing through hundreds of millions of rapid at-home tests and expanding the availability of vaccines that can reduce the risks from the Omicron variant. The president also appealed to the people to get vaccinated to protect themselves from the virus.
In an address at the White House, Biden said he was laying out how the federal government was “preparing for the rising number of cases experts tell us we can expect in the weeks ahead.”
Most notably, the government plans to buy a half-billion at-home COVID test kits and mail them to people who want them, with deliveries beginning in January, Biden announced from the White House.
It’s a major step to tackling problems that Americans face in easily accessing free at-home COVID tests throughout the pandemic.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday the Biden administration is still working out details of its at-home test plan, such as how many tests people will be able to request from the federal government, how the tests will be distributed to people and if certain groups will be prioritized for tests.
Biden said, “Americans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and also got booster shots have a high degree of protection against severe illness.” Biden also made it clear that it will not be unusual for vaccinated people to get COVID-19 because of the new variant Omicron and that they will likely experience no symptoms or mild symptoms.
With omicron now the dominant variant in the U.S., President Joe Biden said in a public address Tuesday, “If you’re not fully vaccinated, you have good reason to be concerned.” “The unvaccinated have a significantly higher risk of ending up in a hospital — or even dying,” he said.
In a speech, the president said that the administration will aim to provide more aid to overwhelmed hospitals and set up federal testing sites, with the first one to launch before Christmas in New York City this week as cases are surging. New Yorkers hit the streets over the weekend trying to get tested but encountered long lines in the cold. The wait at a city-run testing and vaccination center in Times Square on Saturday afternoon was reportedly about three hours.
As part of this multipronged effort, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is deploying planning officials to assess needs across the country and preposition supplies like masks, gloves and ventilators. The president announced that FEMA will set up mobile vaccination clinics across the country. There are plans so far for a new mobile unit in Washington, D.C., and four new mobile units across New Mexico.
FEMA will help set up additional sites in areas of high demand over the coming weeks. Biden will also continue using the Defense Production Act and other powers to make sure the U.S. is producing as many tests as quickly as possible.