World, Americas

White House announces new action plan to fight omicron variant

No lockdowns, but President Biden promises to 'pull no punches' in COVID-19 fight

Andy Roesgen   | 02.12.2021
White House announces new action plan to fight omicron variant

CHICAGO, United States

US President Joe Biden announced on Thursday an expanded White House effort to fight COVID-19, specifically the emerging omicron variant.

Biden acknowledged that his hotly debated vaccine mandates for US private employers, now on hold in parts of the country by federal judges, are being "reviewed by the courts," but he said his plan does not expand or add to those mandates.

Instead, he laid out new steps, including an expansion in the nation's vaccine booster shot campaign, with expanded hours and locations, for the 110 million Americans who are eligible for boosters. He also said the government will launch hundreds of new family vaccination centers, "one-stop", as he put it, where whole families can get vaccinated at once.

He also said he supports the effort to eventually get vaccine doses to children under the age of 5.

On the matter of schools, Biden said that 99% of US schools remain open now, and that he intends to keep it that way through the winter, with expanded COVID-19 testing.

Biden said the government is tripling the number of its "surge response teams" to 60. Those teams rush to aid communities where COVID patients are overwhelming hospital staffs.

"Some communities are hit so much harder than others," he said.

Biden said he is taking advice from "real doctors, not conspiracy theorists," in trying to accelerate the use of monoclonal antibodies, which have been shown to lessen the severe effects of COVID-19.

Biden said the administration is making sure at-home test kits are more available and covered by private health insurance, while opening thousands of locations for uninsured people to get at-home tests.

He also said he is extending through the winter months the requirement that US passengers on board all commercial flights, and all other forms of public transportation, must be masked.

The US president announced an immediate change for international travelers coming to the US. Previously, a traveler had to take a COVID-19 test three days prior to departure; now, a traveler must get a test one day before departure.

Biden also touted America's help to the rest of the world on vaccine distribution. He said America already provides more vaccine doses to the rest of the world than all other countries combined, and will launch an effort to get 200 million more doses overseas in the next 100 days.

Biden said the emerging omicron variant might have at least one unintended benefit: convincing more vaccine-resistant Americans to get the shot.

And he decried, again, the politicization of the vaccines.

"It's a sad, sad commentary," he said. "This is a moment we can put the divisiveness behind us, I hope."

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