Coronavirus: Biden lays out plan to curb omicron surge, focuses on vaccinations

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has announced plans to stop the spread of the omicron variant, including plans to purchase a half-billion at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests that will be mailed to Americans who request them via a website, the White House said in a news release early Tuesday.

>> Read more trending news

Update 2:45 p.m. EST Dec. 21: Biden reiterated that people who are vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 that they “have much, much less reason to worry” and that if you’re vaccinated you should feel comfortable celebrating the holidays as you had planned.

He is also urging that people need to get their booster shots, remaining that they are free and available.

Biden said the country will not go back to how it was in March 2020 when the pandemic began and the U.S. went under a months-long lockdown and the reason is that 200 million people in the country are vaccinated.

He also pledged that the country now has enough personal protective equipment and ventilators to deal with the surge.

Biden said the country has added 10,000 new vaccination sites and more will open in January. He’ll be deploying hundreds of workers to dispense vaccines and FEMA will be adding pop-up vaccination sites across the country where surges are happening and where there’s a high demand for vaccines.

Free federal emergency testing sites where additional services are needed with first sites in New York City.

The government is also purchasing a half-billion at-home tests where they can be delivered for free to your home starting next month.

Hospitals are preparing for an influx of patients who get sick over the next few months. The government has requisitioned more PPE that will be sent to locations that need it and will deploy 1,000 troops to hospitals to help add medical personnel where needed.

Biden also pledged to build temporary medical facilities at hospitals if needed.

FEMA will also deploy ambulances and crews to areas where the need is great to be able to transport patients from hospitals that have reached capacities to ones that have not.

Biden said schools should be open and can be if staff and teachers are vaccinated. Schools can stay open and students can stay in classrooms even if a classmate tests positive with the administration’s testing rule, the president said.

Update: 2:25 p.m. EST Dec. 21: New York City has the highest new case rate in the country the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday, ABC News reported. It has more new cases than at any other point in the pandemic and has seen a surge of 640% in the last month, the CDC said.

Mayor-elect Eric Adams has postponed his inauguration ceremony because of the surge, The New York Times reported.

Adams said, “I don’t need an inauguration. All I need is a mattress and a floor to execute being the mayor of the City of New York.”

Original report: According to The Associated Press, the deliveries, which are set to begin next month, are among several initiatives that Biden will outline Tuesday while addressing the nation about efforts to combat the now-dominant omicron coronavirus variant.

As of Tuesday morning, the Republican Party had not issued a statement in response to the White House release.

>> Omicron now dominant US coronavirus strain, CDC says

In the release, the White House said the administration plans to deploy 1,000 service members to hospitals that need additional support in January and February. In addition, federal medical personnel will be deployed to Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire and Vermont, the White House said.

Biden also plans to send hospitals more ventilators and equipment from the national stockpile, as well as offer more pop-up vaccination sites and personnel to administer the shots, the AP reported.

“Our vaccines are the most powerful tools we have – they work to protect people from serious illness and death, and boosters provide people optimal protection,” the White House release said. “While cases among vaccinated individuals will likely increase due to the more transmissible omicron, evidence to date is that their cases will most likely be mild. In contrast, unvaccinated individuals are at high risk of getting COVID-19, getting severely ill and even dying. Today’s actions will mitigate the impact unvaccinated individuals have on our health care system, while increasing access to free testing and getting more shots in arms to keep people safe and our schools and economy open.”

>> Omicron: Moderna says booster dose raises neutralizing antibodies against variant

New coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths appear to be on the rise in the U.S. As of Monday, the country was averaging nearly 142,000 new cases per day – an increase of 18% over the past two weeks, according to The New York Times. In the same 14-day period, new daily hospitalizations rose 14%, while deaths increased 3%, the newspaper reported.

By Monday afternoon, about 61.5% of Americans were considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19, meaning they had received two doses of an mRNA vaccine, such as Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. About 29.8% of fully vaccinated Americans have received a booster dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

More coronavirus pandemic coverage:

>> Coronavirus: How long between exposure to the virus and the start of symptoms?

>> What are your chances of coming into contact with someone who has COVID-19? This tool will tell you

>> How to not let coronavirus pandemic fatigue set in, battle back if it does

Comments on this article