Over the weekend, the White House announced President Biden would address the nation regarding the surge of the latest variant of the COVID-19 virus, Omicron. A quick glance at the WhiteHouse.gov page hinted at Biden’s upcoming address, reminding unvaxxed Americans that without protection from the vaccine, the upcoming winter could be one of severe illness and death.
However, at Monday’s press briefing, White House spokesperson, Jen Psaki said that Biden is more likely to present three methods the Administration will use to combat growing COVID numbers.
President Biden is set to address the nation on Tuesday afternoon, and now that the CDC has released information stating that the Omicron strain of the Coronavirus is now the dominant strain in the United States. In the week that ended on December 18, the Omicron strain was the cause of 73.2 percent of new infections. Just one week prior, Omicron was responsible for just under thirteen percent of new COVID-19 diagnoses.
With Omicron causing a surge in COVID-19 numbers, once again, many institutions across the United States are shuttering their doors once again. New York City has cancelled Broadway shows, including the Rockette’s traditional “Christmas Spectacular” shows. Schools across the country are going back to remote learning during the surge, and the National Hockey League has announced it will “pause” its season for the moment. California has re-enacted a mask mandate that began on December 15 and is slated to last a month. New York City put forth a similar order. Restaurants are once again being forced to either require vaccination cards or shut down altogether in some major cities.
White House officials said that Biden is slated to announce three steps to hopefully get control of the latest surge in COVID numbers. First, the Biden Administration is set to offer increased support to hospitals across the country. Next, free tests are a priority – Biden is expected to announce the availability of 500 million at-home testing kits. Finally, the White House is going to expand the capacity available to get Americans vaccinated.
The Biden Administration says that increased hospital support will include making sure all hospitals across America have the personnel they need as well as sufficient beds and supplies necessary to battle another COVID-19 variant surge.
However, America has only recently seen its first death due to the Omicron variant. The individual resided in Texas, was in his 50s, and had other underlying health issues. His death was confirmed by Fox News early Tuesday. Omicron has been seen in 46 states across the country, but most infections appear to be rather mild even though this variant is more contagious than other strains of the Coronavirus.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to mobilize up to 1,000 members of the military to overburdened hospitals across the country. This deployment is slated for January and February, and these individuals are to provide both critical supplies as well as assist with increased hospital capacity.
The President will also ask FEMA to activate the National Response Coordination Center and send planners from the agency to assist the military in providing necessities at hospitals.
Finally, the Biden Administration is expected to announce that new federal testing sites will be set up across the nation. This comes after news reports showing individuals waiting in very long testing lines in New York over the weekend.
The rapid at-home testing kits are slated to be available via a website starting in January. These testing kits will be delivered free of charge to American homes upon request.
FEMA will also be in charge of setting up “pop up clinics” for vaccinations. Pharmacies across the country are also adding appointment times for consumers wishing to get the vaccine or a booster shot. The White House will be touting the vaccination as well as getting “boosted” in order to stave off the chances of contracting Omicron. Moderna reported earlier this week that its vaccination (the second shot) was best to provide protection against Omicron. Those claims have not been verified by the CDC.
Biden tweeted out Monday evening a stern warning for those who have yet to take the vaccine, and he is expected to reiterate this admonition today: “If you’re an adult choosing to be unvaccinated, you will face an extremely difficult winter for your family and community.”
Surprisingly, Biden acknowledged that the Omicron variant may appear in vaccinated individuals as well; however, vaccinated individuals will experience “mild or no symptoms.”