President Joe Biden has announced a set of new measures to strengthen a Covid-19 Action Plan he set out for this winter.
This is in view of the more contagious omicron variant of coronavirus continuing to ravage the U.S. population, and those without vaccinations remaining at high risk.
As hospitals in the country are filling up with Covid positive patients, Biden also announced expanded testing and military support for hospitals.
The President has directed Defense Secretary Austin to deploy 1,000 military health care professionals to the hardest hit areas and to the overburdened hospitals in January and February.
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.
To get ahead of surges, FEMA is ready to deploy hundreds of ambulances and emergency medical teams so that if one hospital fills up, they can transport patients to open beds in other facilities, the White House said. Just this week, 30 paramedics are heading to New Hampshire, 30 to Vermont, and 20 to Arizona. 30 ambulances are headed to New York and 8 to Maine.
500 million at-home Covid rapid tests will be distributed for free with the initial delivery starting in January.
The President has asked the FEMA Administrator to activate the National Response Coordination Center and deploy FEMA planners to assess hospital needs and start to expand that capacity.
FEMA will open 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 were opened Tuesday.
To further increase capacity, the Biden Administration is deploying hundreds of federal vaccinators across 12 states, Tribes and territories.
In response to strong demand for vaccinations in communities across the country, the Administration will cut red tape to help surge pharmacy teams to places where there is higher demand. Starting this week, hundreds more vaccinators will be deployed and more sites opened to help people get the booster shots.
Pharmacies are opening up hundreds of new vaccination sites for kids in January.
Biden said his administration has stockpiled millions of gowns, gloves, masks, and ventilators, and stands ready to send them immediately to any state that needs more.
The President ruled out lockdowns in schools or in any other parts of the country.
“Today, we don’t have to shut down schools because of a case of COVID-19. Now, if a student tests positive, other students can take the test and stay in the classroom if they’re not infected rather than closing the whole school or having to quarantine”.
“This is not March of 2020. We’re prepared. We know more,” he added.
Biden said he knows vaccination requirements are unpopular for many, but reminded that 400,000 Americans died from the pandemic this year. “Almost all were unvaccinated, almost all were preventable”.
“We should all be concerned about Omicron but not panicked. If you’re fully vaccinated, and especially if you got your booster shot, you are highly protected. And if you’re unvaccinated, you’re at higher risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19, getting hospitalized, and even dying.”
Omicron has replaced Delta as the dominant strain of coronavirus in the United States, accounting for nearly three-fourth of all new cases.
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