WASHINGTON — President Biden on Thursday stepped up his administration’s response to a coronavirus surge pushed by the Omicron variant, sending what he mentioned is urgently wanted assist to overwhelmed hospitals and pledging to offer Individuals with free exams and masks because the nation enters the pandemic’s third yr.
Mr. Biden mentioned he was directing his workers to buy an extra 500 million coronavirus exams for distribution to Individuals, doubling the federal government’s earlier buy as his administration scrambles to answer the extremely contagious Omicron variant.
As well as, the president mentioned he’s sending a complete of 120 navy medical personnel to 6 states the place hospitals have been overrun by instances. And he promised to disclose subsequent week plans to assist Individuals by offering free, high-quality masks which might be higher at prevention an infection from the virus.
The announcement about further exams got here as Mr. Biden ready to get an replace from the leaders of his Covid response staff on the White Home on Thursday morning.
“That can imply a billion exams in complete to fulfill future demand,” Mr. Biden mentioned. “And we’ll proceed to work with the retailers and on-line retailers to extend availability.”
However it’s unclear when the exams will probably be out there. Mr. Biden introduced the primary batch of 500 million exams simply earlier than Christmas, and the primary batch from that announcement won’t begin being delivered till later this month, in accordance with White Home officers. Particulars about how Individuals can request these exams, together with a government-run take a look at web site, are slated to be unveiled on Friday.
The president didn’t say when the brand new batch of 500 million exams will probably be manufactured and prepared for distribution. However he mentioned the at-home exams — together with greater than 20,000 testing websites across the nation — will assist to fulfill the surging demand as individuals attempt to proceed work, faculty and social life regardless of the fast unfold of the virus.
“We’re on monitor to roll out a web site subsequent week the place you’ll be able to order free exams shipped to your private home,” he mentioned, including that folks with medical insurance coverage may quickly get reimbursed for the acquisition of as much as eight exams a month.
Mr. Biden didn’t present any particulars about what he mentioned could be a plan to make sure that Individuals have entry to high-quality masks. Consultants have mentioned that KN95 and N95 masks defend higher in opposition to the Omicron variant than the extra widespread fabric or surgical masks that many individuals put on.
“As I’ve mentioned within the final two years, please put on a masks. I feel it’s a part of your patriotic responsibility,” he mentioned, acknowledging “it’s not that snug, it’s a ache within the neck.”
The announcement about assist for hospitals was the start of a deployment of 1,000 service members to assist docs and nurses take care of a surge in Omicron instances, Mr. Biden mentioned.
The president appeared alongside Lloyd J. Austin III, the protection secretary, and Deanne Criswell, the director of the Federal Emergency Administration Company, on the White Home to element the groups heading to hard-hit communities throughout the nation. Mr. Biden mentioned late final month that he could be tapping the navy to assist hospitals early in January.
The brand new groups of docs, nurses and different medical personnel would start arriving at hospitals in Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island, the president mentioned, as a way to assist triage sufferers arriving at hospitals, permitting short-staffed emergency departments to unencumber area.
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The deployments are a part of the Biden administration’s efforts to deal with the most recent surge of instances brought on by the extremely contagious Omicron variant. Because it has surged, so have new instances, reaching greater than 780,000 a day throughout the nation. The variety of Individuals hospitalized with Covid-19 has hit a document excessive of about 142,000.
For Mr. Biden, the lack to get management of the pandemic has helped drag down his approval rankings as he enters his second yr in workplace. His aides are intent on publicly speaking their efforts to take care of the virus.
Since Thanksgiving, when Omicron was first found in South Africa, the administration has despatched over 800 navy and emergency personnel to 24 states, tribes and territories, officers mentioned, not counting the personnel Mr. Biden introduced on Thursday.
As well as, greater than 14,000 Nationwide Guard members have been activated in 49 states to assist at hospitals with vaccinations, testing and different medical companies, officers mentioned. These deployments have been paid for by the American Rescue Plan, a regulation that Mr. Biden championed at first of his time period.
“To the navy medical groups on the bottom, thanks for all every little thing you’re doing,” the president mentioned.
Officers mentioned there would doubtless be additional deployments of navy medical personnel within the days forward because the nation continues to battle with the pandemic.
Zachary Montague contributed reporting.