Administration focused efforts on making vaccinations, testin, and treatments even more widely available and accessible as COVID-19 cases increase
The Biden Administration announced a plan to stay ahead of an increase in COVID-19 cases this winter. While COVID-19 is not the disruptive force it once was, the virus continues to evolve, and cases are on the rise again as families are spending more time indoors and gathering for the holidays. Throughout the COVID-19 response, this Administration has been prepared for whatever the virus throws our way – and this moment is no different.
The Administration’s COVID-19 Winter Preparedness Plan includes:
Expanding easy access to free COVID-19 testing options in the winter. COVID-19 testing is an important tool to help mitigate and slow the spread of the virus. The Administration is encouraging Americans to use at-home COVID-19 tests when they have symptoms of COVID-19, before and after traveling for the holidays, or visiting indoors with immunocompromised or vulnerable individuals. The Administration has made free COVID-19 testing widely available and easily accessible. This includes providing over 15,000 free community testing sites nationwide, covering over-the-counter tests under Medicare, and requiring all health insurance plans to cover eight free at-home tests per month per individual, which can be easily accessed at local pharmacies and online. Ahead of continued increases in cases, the Administration is taking new action to ensure that all Americans have easy and free access to COVID-19 tests in the winter months.
Making free at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests available through COVIDTests.gov. The Administration is announcing that COVIDTests.gov is open for a limited round of ordering this winter. Starting today, all U.S. households can order a total of four at-home COVID-19 tests that will be mailed directly to them for free. In the absence of Congress providing additional funding for the nation’s COVID-19 response, the Administration has acted with its limited existing funding to add more at-home COVID-19 tests to the nation’s stockpile and support this round of ordering ahead of continued increases in COVID-19 cases. Orders for this round of testing will begin to ship starting the week of December 19th and continue in the weeks ahead. The Administration will also make tests available to individuals who are blind or have low-vision through this program. People who have difficulty accessing the internet or need additional support placing an order can call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489) to get help in English, Spanish, and more than 150 other languages – 8:00 a.m. to midnight E.T., seven days a week. For more information, people can visit www.COVIDTests.gov.
Distributing more free tests to Americans at trusted locations. In addition to continuing to support access to free COVID-19 tests in schools, community health centers, rural health clinics, long-term care facilities, and other convenient locations, the Administration is announcing additional distribution programs to reach people with free, at-home tests. This includes distributing free at-home tests at more than 6,500 Department of Housing and Urban Development-assisted rental housing properties serving seniors; and expanding a program to distribute free at-home tests to as many as 500 major food banks for them to distribute to people in their communities.
Making vaccinations and treatments readily available to all Americans as cases rise. As we have throughout the pandemic, the federal government continues to leverage all capabilities to support state, local, territorial, and Tribal communities to prepare for, prevent, and respond to increased incidence of COVID-19. That includes working with states, medical providers, businesses, and other groups to expand awareness about updated COVID-19 vaccines, highly effective treatments, and resources to stand up additional vaccination sites and other delivery options to make it easier and more convenient to get vaccinations and treatments.
Offering resources and assistance to increase vaccinations and respond to a possible surge. Today, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra is sending a letter to all governors outlining key actions that he would like state leaders to take as they prepare for increased cases and hospitalizations this winter, and reminding them of federal supports that are available for their COVID-19 responses. This includes setting up additional mobile and pop-up vaccination sites, surge testing sites, as well as Test to Treat sites where Americans can not only get tested for free, but also can get prescribed and dispensed safe, effective COVID-19 treatments right on site if they test positive and treatment is appropriate for them.
Collaborating with communities to open pop-up and/or mobile vaccination sites. Communities across the nation are answering the call to expand vaccine access through the increased presence of mobile and pop-up vaccination clinics. This includes efforts in Los Angeles County to open up to 800 pop-up clinics per week; expanded use of mobile vaccination, testing, and treatment units, as well as outbound vaccine and treatment calls to people age 65 and older, at-home administration of vaccines and free home delivery of treatments in New York City; and an increase in Chicago’s at-home vaccine administration program, which provides vaccines for up to 10 people per visit in their place of residence. The Administration has been engaging jurisdictions on the availability of federal resources to continue and increase these efforts, including through use of flexible single-dose vials, and will continue to engage state, local, Tribal, and territorial leaders in the weeks ahead.
Getting additional resources to community health centers and aging and disability networks to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts. The Administration for Community Living is awarding $125 million to support community-based organizations in the aging and disability networks to hold accessible vaccine clinics and provide in-home vaccinations, transportation, and other supportive services to increase COVID-19 vaccinations for older adults and people with disabilities.
Preparing personnel and resources. Together with states, we will monitor the impacts of variants, cases, and hospitalizations on our communities and – should it become necessary – escalate our support to states and communities. The Administration stands ready with federal capabilities to support urgent needs as they present, including through clinical staffing, personal protective equipment and supplies, and technical assistance.
Readying clinical personnel for deployment as needed to support jurisdictions. The Administration continues to make federal teams and medical personnel available to alleviate strains on hospitals and health care systems through the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS’) Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR), the U.S. Public Health Services Corps, and the Department of Defense. Federal agencies can also help offer support for states to take actions, such as providing more flexibility to hospitals balancing patients and staffing, exercising telemedicine options, pursuing staffing options such as contracts, and employing the National Guard to help alleviate strains on health and medical facilities.
Pre-positioning critical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile. Tanks to the President’s leadership, the U.S. government has hundreds of millions of N-95 masks, billions of gloves, tens of millions of gowns, and over 100,000 ventilators stored in the Strategic National Stockpile—all ready to ship out if and when states need them. The Administration has pre-positioned these supplies in strategic locations across the country so that we can send them to states that need them immediately.
Closely monitoring emerging variants and assessing their potential impacts on testing, treatments and vaccines. This winter, federal agencies will continue to monitor Omicron subvariants and the spread of any other emerging variants of the virus in the United States. This includes genomic surveillance of specimens from representative populations to detect new variants and to monitor trends in currently circulating variants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks and reports on genomic sequencing results from a variety of sources, including public health and commercial laboratories. CDC also recently expanded variant reporting from additional sources, including wastewater and through international air travel. The Traveler-Based Genomic Surveillance Program currently collects samples from international air travelers arriving from more than 25 countries at several major U.S. airports. This data, which provides an early warning system for detection of variants and trends over time, is publicly shared on the CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker.
Focusing on protecting the highest-risk Americans. As we have done since the beginning of the Administration, we remain focused on meeting the needs and protecting Americans at highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19. This includes residents of nursing homes and other congregate care facilities, where we know vaccination rates remain too low. This also includes older Americans, individuals who are immunocompromised, disabled individuals, and others who face a higher risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.
Releasing a winter playbook for nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The Administration will release a winter playbook for administrators of nursing homes and long-term care facilities that summarizes the actions these facilities should take to reduce serious illness, prevent hospitalizations and deaths, and minimize disruptions in their communities. Nursing homes often serve residents at great risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, and congregate care settings have an increased risk of spread of respiratory infections. All facilities should take concrete actions to ensure that every resident is educated on and offered an updated COVID-19 shot; that every resident who tests positive for COVID-19 is evaluated and offered treatment; and that every facility is taking steps to improve its indoor air quality.
Expanding the pool of providers that may administer COVID-19 vaccinations. In addition to working with their partners, staff at nursing homes will now be able to administer COVID-19 vaccines to all residents. HHS will work with states to launch teams and use partner with their Quality Improvement Organizations (QIOs), home health agencies, and Emergency Medical Technicians to deliver vaccines to residents of long-term care facilities. On December 1, 2022, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) also added COVID-19 vaccination rates of health care staff and the residents at these facilities to the “Measures under Consideration” list, the list of measures it will potentially consider for certain Medicare quality payment programs, reinforcing its commitment to increased vaccination and improving outcomes for patients.
Reaching out to governors on nursing home vaccinations. In Secretary Becerra’s letter to governors reminding them of available federal COVID-19 supports, he also highlighted how their states are performing as compared to their peers on vaccinating residents of long-term care facilities, and asked governors for their assistance and partnership in increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates for long-term care residents and staff. CMS leadership will also be reaching out to the jurisdictions with the lowest vaccination rates at these long-term care facilities to remind them of what additional steps they can take to increase vaccination rates among seniors and long-term care facility residents.
Encouraging hospitals to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to patients before discharge.HHS leadership, including Secretary Becerra, has called upon hospitals through direct outreach to vaccinate their unvaccinated patients or make sure they are up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations before they are discharged, especially if they are heading to a nursing home.
Expanding access to high-quality masks in communities. In January 2022, HHS made up to 400 million N-95 respirators from the Strategic National Stockpile available through tens of thousands of locations including pharmacies and grocery stores, so Americans could have convenient, free access to high-quality masks. About 270 million masks were sent out as part of this initiative, with many still available in stores nationwide. To expand access to these high-quality masks, HHS will offer guidance to participating pharmacies and grocery stores on how they can to work with local health clinics, aging and disability networks, community-based organizations, and health departments to distribute these masks more widely, so that any spare inventory can be utilized through distribution to even more locations.
Ensuring that every individual has a plan for COVID-19 this winter. With updated COVID-19 vaccines, at-home tests, and effective oral antiviral treatments widely available, the Administration encourages every individual American to have a plan for how to prevent and respond to COVID-19 this winter. CDC has launched a COVID-19 Personal Action Plan, an easy-to-use guide for individuals, caregivers, and clinicians that helps guide individuals through making a plan for where to access free tests, the location of their closest Test to Treat site, and what to ask their provider on treatments if they test positive. The Personal Action Plan helps lay these steps out in an easy-to-use template so that all Americans – especially those at highest risk for severe illness – can decrease the risk of COVID-19 and, if they become infected, have a plan to quickly seek out treatment and avoid its worst outcomes.
Driven by President Biden’s comprehensive COVID-19 strategy, including a historic vaccination program that has gotten 220 million Americans fully vaccinated, over 100 million people a booster shot, and made vaccines free, widely available and convenient—daily COVID-19 deaths are down 90 percent since he took office.
COVID-19 vaccines remain the single-most important tool that we have to protect people against COVID-19 and its most serious outcomes. Next week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will consider whether to authorize and recommend the first COVID-19 vaccines for kids under the age of 5. If FDA authorizes and CDC recommends one or both of the COVID-19 vaccines for this age group, it would be a historic milestone in the nation’s fight against the virus—and would mean nearly every American is eligible for the protection that vaccination provides.
The Biden Administration announced an operational plan that will ensure that vaccines—now authorized by FDA and recommended by CDC—are readily available for our youngest kids and that we continue the critical work of ensuring that all families know the benefits of getting their children vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Administration’s vaccination program for America’s youngest children will focus on addressing the specific needs of this age group and their families—recognizing that many parents and guardians will choose to get their kids vaccinated through their pediatrician or primary care doctor. As always, state and local governments, health care providers, federal pharmacy partners, national and community-based organizations, and other entities will be critical to the success of this historic, nationwide effort. And, the Administration will continue to work with trusted messengers, including pediatricians, to make a concerted effort to ensure that all families have answers to their questions and know about the importance of getting their children vaccinated.
As the FDA and CDC conduct their independent review processes, the Biden Administration is planning for all scenarios, including for the first vaccinations to start as early as the week of June 20th—with the program ramping up over time as more doses are delivered and more appointments become available.
For months, the Administration has been working with a range of stakeholders to get ready. The Administration has made 10 million vaccine doses available for states, Tribes, territories, community health centers, federal pharmacy partners, and others to pre-order. If the FDA authorizes a vaccine, the Administration will immediately begin shipping doses across the country—and will launch an effort to ensure that parents can get their youngest children vaccinated easily. 85 percent of children under the age of five live within five miles of a potential vaccination site.
The Biden Administration’s plan includes:
Securing vaccine supply for our nation’s children. The Administration has procured a significant supply of vaccines for this age group, with 10 million doses available initially and millions more available in the coming weeks. To ensure that we are able to reach a broad range of pediatric providers—including those in smaller practices and in rural settings—vaccines will be available in package sizes of 100 doses and will come with all of the supplies that health care providers need to serve younger kids, including small needles.
Making vaccinations available in convenient places parents and families know and trust. Working with states, localities, Tribes and territories, the Administration will make vaccinations for our nation’s youngest children widely available at thousands of trusted, accessible sites across the country—with 85 percent of children under the age of five living within five miles of a potential vaccination site. Vaccinations will be available at pediatricians’ and other doctors’ offices, community health centers, rural health clinics, children’s hospitals, public health clinics, local pharmacies, and other community-based organizations. The Administration will also work with state and local public health departments and others to ensure that every child—including those who may not have a pediatrician or primary care provider—has access to the vaccine. And, the Administration will work with states and other entities to make vaccinations available at convenient hours for children, parents and their guardians—including after school and evenings, and on weekends.
Pediatricians and primary care providers: The Administration will make vaccinations available at thousands of pediatric and primary care sites across the country. Pediatricians continue to be one of the most trusted sources of information about COVID-19 for parents and will play a critical role in the nationwide effort to get our youngest children vaccinated—as they are the most common, trusted location for routine childhood vaccines. More than three in four children under the age of five receive their flu vaccine in a doctor’s office. Well-patient visits are also an opportunity for pediatric providers to conduct recommended screenings and provide counseling. The Administration is working hand-in-hand with states, localities, Tribes, and territories to prioritize these providers and ensure that they have the supply, resources, and support they need. The Administration will also continue to make vaccines available directly to health centers and rural health clinics, who together serve more than 2.2 million children under five nationwide.
Children’s hospitals and health systems: The Administration will make vaccinations available at more than 100 children’s hospitals and health systems nationwide. Children’s hospitals play an essential role in our efforts to ensure access for our nation’s highest-risk kids, including those with obesity, diabetes, asthma or immunosuppression. Through the Administration’s partnership with the Children’s Hospital Association, more than 120 children’s hospitals across 47 states and D.C. will provide pediatric vaccinations across their health care systems and in trusted community sites.
State and local public health clinics and sites: The Administration will build on its longstanding work with state and local health departments across the country to ensure that we are reaching those hardest-to-reach, including families who may not have regular access to a pediatrician, through public health clinics. The Administration will make available federal funding to support states as they stand up and operate these clinics, and will work hand-in-hand with states to maximize vaccination coverage and availability, particularly in the hardest-hit, highest-risk communities.
Local pharmacies: The Administration will make vaccinations for children available at thousands of local pharmacies nationwide through the federal pharmacy program. Participating pharmacies will offer vaccinations for this age group in a more limited set of locations, in many cases at clinics staffed by health care providers with primary care experience. And pharmacies will offer convenient hours and advanced scheduling to best meet the needs of parents and communities.
Leveraging federal programs to reach parents and families with information and advance equity. As with prior vaccination efforts, the Administration will leverage existing federal programs and capabilities to ensure that we are reaching parents and families with the information they need. And, as always, the Administration will remain laser-focused on equity and making sure that we reach those hardest-hit and most at-risk communities.
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program: In addition to other U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs, the Administration will engage families through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, which serves over 6 million people, including almost half of all infants born in the United States. A longstanding partner to immunization programs, WIC settings across the country will be provided with tailored resources for talking to families about the COVID-19 vaccine and will continue providing families with referrals to vaccination providers, including those co-located with WIC settings.
Head Start Program: Through the Administration for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Administration will work with Head Start grantees to get critical vaccination information to the approximately 1 million families they serve. Head Start has always played a crucial role in improving health outcomes for families, and COVID-19 is no different. The Administration will support training and resources for grantees to learn about vaccines for kids under five and how grantees can talk to families about them, and it will ensure that any Head Start location is ready and able to provide vaccinations to its community gets the help it needs.
Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program: The Administration will engage families through HHS’ Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program, which each year reaches more than 140,000 parents and young children across the country that are at risk for poor maternal and child health outcomes. MIECHV home visitors will leverage these established relationships to help families learn more about COVID-19 and the safety, efficacy, and benefits of COVID-19 vaccines and, upon request, will refer families to local vaccination sites.
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs: The Administration will launch an effort to reach more than 800,000 children age five and under supported by HUD programs, including children in households that receive housing-choice vouchers and children living in public housing and Section 8 housing. Building on successful campaigns with children in other age groups, these efforts will include education events and on-site vaccination clinics near HUD-supported housing where appropriate, in coordination with other vaccination locations in the community.
Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): The Center for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) will take steps to support and push the message about the importance of vaccinating the millions of children under 5 who are enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP. This outreach will involve engaging states, local jurisdictions, and stakeholders to get the latest information on vaccines for this age group to Medicaid beneficiaries and their families. This effort builds on the work that CMS has already done to require state Medicaid programs to pay health care providers for providing counseling visits to parents and guardians about the importance of kids’ vaccination—giving families the support they need to engage with trusted community providers.
Supporting education and engagement efforts to build trust among parents and families. While many parents are eager to vaccinate their youngest children, others have questions. To ensure that parents and families have answers to their questions and information from sources that they trust, HHS will work with a broad range of national organizations to launch a national public education campaign that reaches parents, guardians, and families with facts and information that they need to make informed choices for both their youngest and their older children.
The HHS COVID-19 Community Corps will reach parents and families about vaccinations for kids under the age of five. Launched last April to empower people and organizations to build vaccine confidence in their communities, the Community Corps now has over 17,000 members, including health care, faith, rural, sports, and youth organizations. The ‘HHS We Can Do This’ campaign will provide a pediatric COVID-19 vaccination toolkit—in both English and Spanish—to trusted messengers, health care providers, and state and local organizations so they can reach people where they are in-person and online. HHS will also provide additional materials for stakeholders, including a superhero-themed toolkit with creative resources for hospitals and pediatricians. And, pending FDA authorization and CDC recommendation, the Administration also plans to release a new public service announcement (PSA) letting parents of children 6 months and older know that the new COVID-19 vaccines are available and offer one more way to keep their children safe. The PSA, filmed in both English and Spanish, will be distributed broadly to local television and radio networks, and would air in early July.
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), two leading medical, will provide a “Speaker’s Bureau” of pediatricians and family doctors who will lend their trusted voices to raise awareness, answer common questions among parents, and encourage vaccine confidence through community events, vaccine and health fairs, and other key opportunities to reach parents. AAP and AAFP will also work with HHS to co-brand a toolkit of resources geared toward pediatricians and primary care doctors, providing these and other health care providers the information and materials they need to support vaccine confidence among their patients and parents.
Association of Children’s Museums (ACM), a champion for children’s museums with more than 460 members in 50 states and 19 countries, will work with local member museums to: host vaccine pop-up clinics; provide in-person and virtual events including information sessions, community forums, and other events featuring museum leaders and medical experts to answer parent questions; display a museum exhibit providing educational information about vaccination in English and Spanish; and amplify digital and social content to reach families.
The National Diaper Bank Network, a nationwide organization with more than 200 member diaper bank programs that distributed over 68 million diapers last year, will distribute educational material to parents and caregivers through member diaper banks, packing fact sheets, postcards, and other materials in diaper boxes, sharing resources with local agency partners, and hosting virtual and in-person events with pediatricians and other trusted messengers.
The American Library Association (ALA) will provide resources to assist the nation’s 17,000 public libraries in providing trusted vaccine information to parents and guardians. ALA will conduct a national webinar for librarians and staff featuring a pediatrician from AAP and other trusted messengers to provide information to public librarians and staff on how they can support vaccine education and outreach, share resources through children’s programming, and host in-person events and vaccine pop-up clinics to promote vaccines in their communities. Public libraries have played an important role in the pandemic by equipping their communities with trusted information, supplies like masks and COVID-19 tests, and hosting pop-up vaccine clinics.
The National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) has been hosting dozens of vaccine pop-up clinics to reach parents, teachers, and school staff. The National PTA will continue to engage parents of school-aged children, as well as parents of younger children, by hosting a national symposium for local PTA leaders and affiliates featuring a pediatrician from AAP and other trusted messengers; hosting vaccine pop-up clinics in key geographic markets to reach parents of both school-aged and younger children; and hosting virtual events to reach parents and empower community leaders to act as trusted messengers and amplify vaccine information.
The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), the leading association for community health centers, will provide culturally appropriate and evidence-based training to empower community health centers to act as trusted messengers with parents of school-aged and younger children and other patients in their communities. NACHC will also host virtual events, including webinars, trainings, and podcasts to aid in the dissemination of campaign materials and messaging about the importance of vaccinations for young children, and how community health workers can play a key role in reaching parents with trusted messaging.
Latino community-focused organizations, including the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the largest and oldest Hispanic serving organization in the US with over 1,000 LULAC Councils, will hold in-person and virtual educational events for parents and caregivers and will design and distribute bilingual, culturally relevant resources (printed and digital) to community members and partner organizations.
Black community-focused organizations, including the W. Montague Cobb Health Institute, a consortium of scholars working toward the elimination of racial and ethnic health disparities within the National Medical Association, will host “Stay Well Health Fairs and Vaccine Clinics,” an ongoing series of health fairs offering free vaccines, educational materials, health screenings, and pediatric roundtables featuring subject matter experts. The Women’s Missionary Society Foundation, with 800,000 members across the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church’s boundaries, will host “family fun day” vaccine events reaching Black families and will collaborate with AME Church daycares and pre-schools to share information and messaging about pediatric vaccines.
Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community-focused organizations, including the Asian Community Development Council, The Progressive Vietnamese American Organization, Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center, Chinese Community Center, Filipino Family Health Initiative, and Thai Community Development Center will: engage with local communities in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog and other languages where possible through in-person engagement, phone banking, social media and written resources; reach families through WIC Market Match, which serves parents with small children who are on WIC; and host weekly vaccine clinics and vaccine education classes and events.
Native American community organizations, including Native Roots Radio, a leading radio station for Native Americans to discuss local, regional, and national Native American news and events will conduct virtual conversations including physicians, community advocates, and Tribal leadership speaking on the COVID-19 pandemic including vaccinations for children, boosters, mental health and long COVID; and the USDA Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations in partnership with the Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board will distribute educational materials to food distribution centers to be packaged in food boxes promoting vaccinations that are regionally and culturally tailored to Native American audiences.
What to Expect, a platform of over 20 million moms, will author a blog series featuring doctors and other trusted experts answering questions about pediatric COVID-19 vaccines, and how moms, expecting moms, and all parents can get the information they need to get themselves and their children vaccinated; author new articles dispelling myths about the COVID-19 vaccine and children; and create and amplify new What to Expect social media content, reaching moms where they are and fighting vaccine misinformation across all platforms.
The Biden Administration is sounding the alarm for the urgent need for Congress to provide funding for the nation’s COVID-19 response and is underscoring the severe consequences of their inaction: Fewer vaccines, treatments, and tests for the American people, and fewer shots in arms around the world.
The White House laid out the consequences in a fact sheet:
Over the past 15 months, the Biden Administration has used the resources Congress provided to mobilize a comprehensive COVID-19 response. As a result, the United States has made tremendous progress in our fight against the virus—saving over 2 million American lives, safely reopening our schools, creating jobs at a record pace, returning to more normal routines, and averting $900 billion in health care costs.
The Biden Administration launchedCOVID.gov, a one-stop shop website to help all people in the United States gain even better access to lifesaving tools like vaccines, tests, treatments, and masks, as well as get the latest updates on COVID-19 in their area. The Administration has worked over the past 15 months to set up over 90,000 vaccination sites, make more than 400 million high-quality masks available for free, send free tests to peoples’ homes, and stand up new test-to-treat sites where people can get tested and receive life-saving antivirals all in one place. Now, with a click of a button, people will be able to find where to access all of these tools, as well as receive the latest CDC data on the level of COVID-19 in their community.
As part of COVID.gov, a new Test-to-Treat locator will help people access pharmacies and community health centers across the nation where people can get tested for COVID-19 and receive appropriate treatments if they need them.
President Biden also implemented a new effort across the federal government to develop and issue the first-ever interagency national research action plan on Long COVID. The effort will advance progress in prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and provision of services, supports, and interventions for individuals experiencing Long COVID and associated conditions.
In March, the President laid out a comprehensive National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan to keep America moving forward safely, by ensuring that lifesaving tools like vaccines and treatments remain free and widely available to Americans, by preparing for potential surges and new variants, and by getting more shots in arms around the world. Executing this plan remains essential to sustaining the progress we have made and saving more lives. There has been an uptick in cases in parts of the country and, while cases will continue to fluctuate, this virus has proven itself to be unpredictable. Without funding, the United States will be unprepared for whatever comes next.
COVID-19 isn’t waiting on Congress to negotiate. Other countries will not wait. Time is of the essence. Congress must act urgently to help save more American lives and ensure we remain prepared.
Congressional inaction on additional COVID-19 response funding means:
Fewer Vaccines for Americans:
The Administration cannot secure enough booster shots for every American, if they are needed in the fall. At this moment, the United States has enough supply to support one booster shot for Americans age 16 and over, and additional boosters for immunocompromised individuals and those age 50 and older. However, if additional booster shots are authorized and recommended for the general population, we will not have the supply necessary to provide free and easy access to them for all Americans. At this time last year, the Administration was contracting for future boosters that could ultimately be needed starting in September; this allowed us to make those booster shots free and widely available as soon as they were authorized. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) needs to begin contracting for boosters imminently so that the agency can conclude contractual negotiations as soon as May to ensure delivery of sufficient supply by September. Other countries are already placing orders for future needs and as a result, will get supply before it is available for Americans. Just yesterday, Pfizer submitted an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Emergency Use Authorization for its booster for kids ages 5 to 11. If these boosters are authorized and recommended, we would not have enough supply for every child in that age group. Not having enough supply to support booster shots for everyone, if needed, puts American lives at risk, and is a completely avoidable outcome.
The Administration cannot secure new COVID-19 vaccines to protect against multiple variants for the American people. Vaccine manufacturers are working on developing vaccines that could offer broader and longer-lasting protection than our existing vaccines—and there is ongoing discussion among scientific and medical experts, including FDA’s panel of outside experts, about the potential need for vaccines with new formulations in the future to better protect us from variants. Just this month, Moderna released data on a new vaccine that could potentially offer better protection against multiple variants. The company also announced that it expects to release data on an Omicron-specific vaccine soon. This means that there could be more effective vaccines available as soon as this fall that can enhance the protection Americans receive from getting vaccinated. The United States should be securing these vaccines today, but without funding, the Administration cannot purchase doses for the American people or even ensure that America is in line for them. This could mean people in other countries have access to the best lifesaving vaccines before Americans. Vaccines have proven to be our single-most important tool in protecting people, and the best ones should be available for the American people.
Fewer Treatments for Americans:
The Administration cannot restock the nation’s supply of lifesaving treatments. To date, the Administration has distributed over 9.6 million courses of treatment across the country, working with states and territories, Tribes, pharmacies, federal health centers, and other partners to provide them to Americans for free. Due to a lack of funding, we have already missed the opportunity to purchase additional supply of these lifesaving treatments. To stretch our supply as much as possible, last month, the Administration was forced to cut the number of monoclonal antibody treatments distributed to states by over 30 percent. Ensuring these treatments remain free, widely available, and easy to access for people who need them is crucial to our nation moving forward safely.
The Administration cannot invest in promising treatments or secure newer, even better treatments for the American people. The federal government will not be able to invest in next-generation treatments that have the potential to provide broader protection against future variants or to treat people who may not be able to take full advantage of current treatments. Several candidates may be promising, and the United States will lose an opportunity to secure its spot in line and to support ramped-up manufacturing capacity of these treatments if we do not have funding to secure supply prior to a potential authorization or approval. Given COVID-19’s potential to mutate, it is also prudent to support and secure a range of effective treatments that attack the virus in different ways to guard against future variants.
The Administration will have to scale back purchases of treatments that protect immunocompromised Americans. The Administration has secured more than 1 million courses of Evusheld, a preventive therapy for immunocompromised people. Due to lack of funding, we have had to substantially scale back our plans to purchase additional supply. This therapy takes months to produce, and at this point, we are at risk of missing out on supply that will be delivered in the last few months of 2022. Congressional inaction will put immunocompromised individuals at greater risk as we enter this fall.
Fewer Tests for Americans:
The Administration cannot sustain domestic testing manufacturing capacity and will be unprepared for another surge in testing demand. Omicron drove unprecedented demand for COVID-19 testing around the world. As cases have fallen dramatically, so has demand for testing. Demand will continue to decrease over time, and as a result, domestic manufacturers will start ramping down production across the next several weeks and months. Federal investments are a crucial way to preserve the domestic testing manufacturing capacity we have built over the last 15 months. Without these investments, it will take manufacturers months to ramp back up to rebuild capacity, so failure to invest now will leave us with insufficient testing capacity and supply if we see another surge in cases and demand for testing increases once again. This would mean empty store shelves, long lines at testing sites, and slower results which will have life-or-death consequences for people who need to take lifesaving treatments within days of becoming symptomatic. That should not be allowed to happen.
Fewer Shots in Arms Around the World:
The United States cannot supercharge our effort to get more shots in arms, putting us at greater risk for more variants that may prove to be even more dangerous than the ones we have faced to date. The U.S. has now delivered over half a billion adult vaccines to 114 countries. Countries need funding and assistance to turn vaccines into vaccinations. Without additional funding for our global response, we will not have resources to help get more shots in arms in countries in need—which is one of the best ways we can prevent future variants. We will also lack funding to provide oxygen and other lifesaving supplies, and our global genomic sequencing capabilities will fall off—undermining our ability to detect any emerging variants around the world.
“The reason we’ve been so successful in the past is because I was able to work with drug manufacturers, but without funding, we cannot pre-order,” President Biden stated. “We’re running out of supplies for therapeutics – antiviral pills – we desperately need. … We’ve donated more vaccinations to the world than all nations combined…. Without additional funding, we won’t be able to continue to supply. … No delays, no excuses, just action now.”
A new study out today from the Commonwealth Fund shows that President Biden’s relentless efforts to get Americans vaccinated saved millions of American lives. Our vaccination campaign saved 2.2 million American lives, prevented 17 million hospitalizations, prevented 66 million COVID-19 cases, and avoided $900 billion in health care costs.
This is the result of the Biden Administration’s efforts to use every tool to make vaccinations easy and convenient for every American, Congress providing us the vital resources we needed, and the American people stepping up and doing their part.
We mounted a historic vaccination effort and invested in tests and treatments – empowering Americans with more tools than ever before to protect themselves. Together, we’ve spared millions of families the immeasurable loss that too many others have suffered, and turned unthinkable pain into extraordinary purpose and progress.
Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress are now holding up critical funding we need to make even more progress – to save even more lives. Make no mistake: Inaction will leave our nation less prepared for any future surges and variants. It will mean fewer vaccines, treatments, and tests for the American people. This is deeply disappointing – and it should be unacceptable to every American. We’ve worked too hard and come too far to leave ourselves and our economy vulnerable to an unpredictable virus. The virus is not waiting on Congress to negotiate. Congress must act with urgency.
As President Biden just took action to expand access to the Affordable Care Act – amid calls by Republicans once again to repeal it if they regain control of Congress – it is important to keep in mind that 75 million Americans have contracted COVID-19, and millions of them are experiencing the effects of Long- OVID, and thus have pre-existing conditions. Obamacare, as the Affordable Care Act is known, protects people with pre-existing conditions as well as ends lifetime caps on coverage and keeps children on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26. There were 100 million Americans with pre-existing conditions before the coronavirus.
Biden has said that health care is a right, not a privilege, and has taken several actions – besides expanding access (some 30 million now take advantage of affordable Obamacare) – to improve health care. That includes mounting the massive vaccination program that has saved millions of lives, testing and new treatments; he is trying to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, particularly insulin (from $4000 month to $35/month), and launched a $5 billion research program to address some of the worst killers including cancer and Alzheimer’s. Now the Biden Administration is accelerating the whole-of-government effort to prevent, detect and treat Long COVID. Here’s a fact sheet from the White House–Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
The U.S. has made tremendous progress in our fight against COVID-19. Today, Americans have the tools they need to protect against and treat the virus. At the same time, millions of individuals continue to experience prolonged illness from COVID-19, known as “Long COVID.” Many report debilitating, lasting symptoms that can persist long after the acute COVID-19 infection has resolved, and can manifest in anyone who has had COVID-19. These symptoms often look like those associated with other chronic medical conditions.
The Administration has mobilized to advance our nation’s understanding of Long COVID and its associated conditions, promote high-quality care for patients, and help individuals access supportive services—especially for those from communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The President’s National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan makes clear that we are committed to accelerating these efforts, with additional support and resources from Congress.
President Biden issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to coordinate a new effort across the federal government to develop and issue the first-ever interagency national research action plan on Long COVID. The effort will advance progress in prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and provision of services, supports, and interventions for individuals experiencing Long COVID and associated conditions. The Presidential Memorandum also directs HHS to issue a report outlining services and supports across federal agencies to assist people experiencing Long COVID, individuals who are dealing with a COVID-related loss, and people who are experiencing mental health and substance use issues related to the pandemic. This report will specifically address the long-term effects of COVID-19 on high-risk communities and efforts to address disparities in access to services and supports.
Today’s announcement builds on the Administration’s ongoing work to implement the recommendations of the Presidential COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. It also builds on a number of additional actions the Administration is taking to support the millions of Americans experiencing Long COVID and their families by delivering high-quality care and expanding access to services and supports, as well as actions to advance efforts to detect, prevent, and treat Long COVID.
These actions include:
Delivering high-quality care for individuals experiencing Long COVID: As a complex condition that can affect multiple organ systems, Long COVID may require care and coordination across multiple medical specialties. The Administration recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in new members of the disability community and has had a tremendous impact on people with disabilities. The Administration will continue to center the voices of patients in this work and is advancing efforts to deliver high-quality, high-value care to people experiencing Long COVID—especially communities hardest-hit by COVID-19. In collaboration with patients, payers, and providers across the care continuum, the Administration will accelerate and disseminate clinical support and best practices to promote coordinated, integrated care models and expand access to high-quality care in communities across the country.
Launching Centers of Excellence and promoting evidence-based care models: Through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the President’s Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) budget will invest in a multi-year initiative, beginning with $20 million in FY23, to investigate how health care systems can best organize and deliver care for people with Long COVID, provide telementoring and expert consultation for primary care practices, and advance the development of multispecialty clinics to provide complex care. This work would fund institutions across the country that bring together leading researchers and care providers across the full care continuum – including hospitals, health centers, long-term care services and supports, and other providers – and promote the implementation of new evidence into care, especially for disproportionately affected populations. As information emerges on effective Long COVID treatments and care, AHRQ in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and National Institutes of Health (NIH)—in collaboration with clinical leaders, professional societies, and the national academies—will build on existing interim clinical guidance to get providers and patients the care information they need.
Expanding and strengthening Long COVID clinics: Across the country, 18 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities have already established Long COVID care programs, consolidating multidisciplinary clinical expertise in locations veterans know and trust. The VA will expand on the success of these programs by establishing additional Long COVID programs and robust referral and follow-up systems across its facilities. These programs, and others established by hospitals and health systems across the country, are serving as a source of rapid learning and long-term research on best practices and new therapies, along with the broader provider, patient, and scientific community. The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) will launch the Health+ project to gain insights into the experiences and patient journeys of people living with Long COVID and associated conditions, to help inform high-quality care and contribute to standardized best practices at Long COVID clinics.
Promoting provider education and clinical support: The Administration will continue to work with providers to advance our recognition and understanding of Long COVID and associated conditions, including by sharing culturally competent information and resources through platforms like the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Medicare Learning Network and Indian Health Service (IHS) provider education and partnerships with academic institutions. The Administration will also launch targeted clinician and medical coder education on the ICD-10-CM code (U09.9) effective last year to support diagnosis, billing, and tracking of Long COVID. To further support equitable access to high-quality care in communities hard-hit by the pandemic, the Administration, through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), will continue to build sustainable telementoring programs and networks in rural and medically underserved communities. HHS will additionally convene experts across the country to provide recommendations to our nation’s providers on best practices in the identification and management of the mental and behavioral health disorders associated with Long COVID.
Bolstering health insurance coverage for Long COVID care: The Administration is working to make Long COVID care as accessible as possible. CMS has clarified that, under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) requirement that state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) programs cover treatments for COVID-19, states must also cover treatments and therapies for Long COVID. Additionally, the essential health benefits (EHB) provided by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) generally provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19, including Long COVID, though coverage and cost-sharing details vary by plan. CMS has also expanded Medicare coverage for pulmonary rehabilitation services for Long COVID care beginning in the 2022 Physician Fee Schedule. Moving forward, the Administration will continue to assess opportunities to enhance access to care for Long COVID and its associated symptoms through Medicare, Medicaid, insurance marketplace coverage, and other options. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will also increase awareness of Long COVID among Federal Employee Health Benefit (FEHB) Program carriers—serving over 8.2 million federal employees, retirees, and their families—and call on them to closely monitor care for individuals with Long COVID. OPM will additionally enhance enrollee education on plans’ coverage of the assessment and treatment of Long COVID and associated symptoms such as respiratory illness and chronic fatigue.
Making services and supports available for individuals experiencing Long COVID: The Administration continues to work to understand Long COVID and its impact across populations, including how it interacts with other medical and physical conditions. Individuals with Long COVID may need help doing things they did by themselves in the past, or may need accommodations in their daily activities based on changes in their abilities. In addition to the Long COVID guidance package released during the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Administration is raising awareness of Long COVID as a potential cause of disability, and strengthening services and supports available for individuals experiencing Long COVID.
Raising awareness of Long COVID as a potential cause of disability: To protect individuals with Long COVID from discrimination, HHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have released guidance explaining that some individuals with Long COVID may have a disability under civil rights laws, including the ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. The Department of Education (ED) also released a resource to support children, students, educators, schools, service providers, and families—providing information about Long COVID as a disability and about schools’ and public agencies’ responsibilities for the provision of services and reasonable modifications to children and students for whom Long COVID is a cause of a disability. The Administration for Community Living (ACL) and the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) are continuing to disseminate resources to help people with Long COVID understand if they have a disability, educate people on their rights, and to inform organizations of their obligations.
Translating research into inclusive disability policy: Through the Social Security Administration’s close collaboration with research agencies and other entities, the Administration will continue to clarify and update policy guidance as the science develops to support inclusive disability policy and claims adjudication processes through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) programs for individuals experiencing Long COVID. This includes building on its Emergency Message on Evaluating Cases with COVID-19 and continuing to be responsive to findings from the medical and scientific communities about the types of evidence that can help establish impairments and identify functional limitations linked to Long COVID, when appropriate. Additionally, ACL and the Department of Labor (DOL) continue to elevate experiences of individuals with disability due to Long COVID, including on return-to-work.
Connecting people with the resources they need: The Administration will help connect people with Long COVID to information, resources, and service and support options. This includes incorporating multilingual information and support into the CDC-INFO call center, Disability Information and Access Line (DIAL), and call centers run by CMS—which together receive over 3 million calls each month—and providing Long COVID-specific trainings for customer service representatives. Through ACL’s DIAL and Eldercare Locator, the Administration will also continue to connect older adults and individuals with disabilities to critical local services, such as transportation to receive care. IHS will additionally train business office and benefit administrator staff to assist Tribal communities in navigating Long COVID. SAMHSA will additionally collaborate with stakeholders to advance our understanding of the mental health effects of COVID-19 and promote high-quality mental and behavioral health care services for those who need it.
Strengthening support for workers experiencing Long COVID: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and DOL recently released guidance on access to equitable employment opportunities for people experiencing the impact of COVID-19 and the symptoms of Long COVID. To protect workers experiencing Long COVID, DOL, in coordination with the EEOC, will continue supporting enforcement of the ADA, and other federal disability related nondiscrimination requirements for all workers. DOL’s Job Accommodation Network (JAN) also helps individuals with Long COVID remain in or return to their jobs. This includes both resources to empower workers to request and negotiate accommodations, as well as resources for employers on effective accommodation strategies. Additionally, through the legal networks funded by ACL, the Administration will continue to support legal assistance related to Long COVID to older adults and people with disabilities.
Advancing the nation’s understanding of Long COVID: Robust data and information are essential to our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and its long-term effects. The Administration will support and accelerate research to understand, prevent, diagnose, treat, advance non-discrimination for, and otherwise support individuals with Long COVID. This includes efforts to better identify and characterize Long COVID – including with respect to its frequency, severity, duration, and risk factors; account for its impact on hard-hit and high-risk populations; and better understand its symptoms—including anxiety and depression, fatigue, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating, heart palpitations, disordered sleep, chest and joint pain, and headache. These symptoms may look like those associated with other chronic medical conditions—including dysautonomia, myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), and mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS). In collaboration with patients, academia, providers, and other stakeholders, the Administration will continue to take critical steps to advance our scientific understanding in order to prevent, detect, and treat Long COVID.
Launching the first-ever National Research Action Plan on Long COVID: Today, President Biden issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to coordinate a new effort across the federal government to develop and issue the first-ever interagency national research action plan on Long COVID. The effort will advance progress in prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and provision of services, supports, and interventions for individuals experiencing Long COVID. This effort, building on the landmark Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) Initiative and other initiatives across the federal government, will advance our understanding of Long COVID, foster the development of new treatments and care models, and inform services, support, and interventions for individuals experiencing Long COVID.
Accelerating enrollment into the RECOVER Initiative: Last year, the NIH launched its $1.15 billion RECOVER Initiative to advance our understanding of and ability to predict, treat, and prevent Long COVID. To help catalyze progress, the Administration will accelerate the enrollment of approximately 40,000 individuals with and without Long COVID into RECOVER’s longitudinal observational arm—in addition to advancing RECOVER’s pathobiology studies, EHR studies, and clinical trials. Equity remains at the center of the Administration’s COVID-19 response efforts, and RECOVER will focus on enrolling individuals across all ages, races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses—including pregnant people, individuals with disabilities, and those from the communities hardest hit by the pandemic. RECOVER will also continue to bolster its patient-centered approach, leveraging its National Community Engagement Group—comprised of patient representatives across its pathobiology task forces and executive, steering, and oversight committees—to enable patients to shape research design and execution, listen for community feedback, and learn from patients’ first-hand experience.
Making further investments to advance Long COVID research and surveillance: Building on the $50 million CDC has already invested, the President’s FY23 budget has requested $25 million to answer key questions on the characteristics, risk factors, underlying mechanisms, and health impacts of Long COVID—through clinician engagement, electronic health data analyses, and grant funding. This includes through the Innovative Support for Patients with SARS-CoV-2 Infections Registry (INSPIRE) study by CDC, which will follow nearly 6,000 individuals nationwide for up to 18 months, and other dedicated research in Tribal and other hard-hit, high-risk communities.
Leveraging the power of federal data: With its robust, national health care databases, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a wealth of information on the risks and burdens of COVID-19. Using data from over 600,000 individuals with COVID-19, the VA will continue advancing its work to assess the different health impacts of COVID-19 over time. This includes building on its already published analyses relying on EHR data on kidney, cardiovascular, and mental health outcomes in people who have gotten COVID-19, through a national study surveying infected Veterans and uninfected controls about persistent symptoms. Additionally, the Department of Defense (DOD) has launched the Epidemiology, Immunology, and Clinical Characteristics of Emerging Infectious Diseases with Pandemic Potential (EPICC) study of Military Health System beneficiaries to help determine effects of COVID-19 and define clinical strategies to address them. This foundational study will not only support our military medical readiness but also our broader understanding of the disease.
Identifying workplace interventions that help keep individuals connected: To inform the development of inclusive disability policies and benefits, the DOL is scaling its work to identify early intervention strategies for workers who experience injuries or illnesses, including Long COVID, when working. DOL is expanding beyond its initial pilot study—to Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio, and Vermont—to help workers find alternatives as they decide whether to stay at or return to work following an illness like Long COVID.
Website will Feature a New Test-to-Treat Locator Tool to Help People Access the Over 2,000 Locations that Offer COVID-19 Tests and Antiviral Pills at One Convenient Location
Administration Continues to Urge Congress to Provide Funding Immediately to Help Keep These Life-Saving Protections Readily Available to All
Today, the Biden Administration is launching COVID.gov, a new one-stop shop website to help all people in the United States gain even better access to lifesaving tools like vaccines, tests, treatments, and masks, as well as get the latest updates on COVID-19 in their area. The Administration has worked over the past 14 months to set up over 90,000 vaccination sites, make more than 400 million high-quality masks available for free, send free tests to peoples’ homes, and stand up new test-to-treat sites where people can get tested and receive life-saving antivirals all in one place. Now, with a click of a button, people will be able to find where to access all of these tools, as well as receive the latest CDC data on the level of COVID-19 in their community.
As part of COVID.gov, a new Test-to-Treat locator will help people access pharmacies and community health centers across the nation where people can get tested for COVID-19 and receive appropriate treatments if they need them. President Biden announced the Test-to-Treat initiative in his State of the Union address earlier this month. Since that time, the Administration has already launched over 2,000 of these sites, plus more than 240 sites across Veteran’s Health Administration and Department of Defense facilities to serve veterans, military personnel, and their families. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, the Administration is ensuring locations are established in our most hard-hit and high-risk communities.
Because of the lifesaving tools we now have, America is in a new moment in the pandemic. The country is moving forward safely and people are getting back to their more normal routines. To ensure we’re sustaining and building on this progress and protecting and preparing for new variants, earlier this month, the President released his National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan. The President was clear that in order to execute on this plan and to stay ahead of the virus, the Administration needs additional funding from Congress—including $22.5 billion in immediate emergency funds. To date, Congress has failed to provide those funds and the country is already suffering the consequences. In the last two weeks, the Administration has had to stop reimbursing health care providers for treating the uninsured, cancel monoclonal antibody orders and cut states’ supply, reduce orders of treatments for the immunocompromised, and pull the U.S. out of line for future vaccine and next-generation treatment purchases. These issues disproportionately impact our hardest-hit and highest-risk populations, including communities of color and individuals with disabilities. The Administration continues to urge Congress to act quickly, as the consequences will continue to get worse in the coming weeks.
Protecting the American people from COVID-19 now and into the future relies on affordable and accessible tools like vaccines, treatments, tests and high-quality masks. Through efforts like COVID.gov and Test-to-Treat, the Administration continues to take steps to make these tools even more readily available. Now, we need Congress to do its part and continue to fund the COVID-19 response.
Today’s announcements include:
Launch of COVID.gov, A New One-Stop-Shop Website Where Individuals Can Find Where to Access Vaccines, Tests, Treatments, and High-Quality Masks. Today, the Administration launched COVID.gov, a new website to help people access vaccines, tests, treatments, and high-quality masks. COVID.gov also provides people an easy way to find the level of COVID-19 in their community. Early last year, the Administration launched Vaccines.gov and an associated call line to help people locate and make appointments at vaccine sites near them. In January of this year, the Administration launched COVIDTests.gov where people could order tests and have them shipped to their homes for free. COVID.gov will allow individuals to access both of these services at one convenient, easy-to-use website. It will also offer information about where to find free high-quality masks and, for the first time, where to access COVID-19 treatments.
COVID.gov will be available in English, Spanish, and Simplified Chinese and is accessible for those using assistive technologies. The Administration is also making all of these COVID-19 tools available over the phone through the National Hotline at 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489), which supports over 150 languages. For individuals with disabilities who may need additional support, the Disability Information and Access Line (DIAL) is also available to help at 1-888-677-1199 or via email at [email protected].
New Locator Tool to Help Individuals Access the Over 2,000 Test-to-Treat Sites Across the Country. Today, as part of COVID.gov, the Administration launched a new Test-to-Treat locator tool to help the public access lifesaving drugs if they are sick with COVID-19. President Biden announced in his State of the Union address the creation of the Test-to-Treat initiative. This program creates one-stop-shop locations where people can get a COVID-19 test and receive an oral antiviral treatment, if appropriate for them because they test positive and face high risks from COVID. Since the launch earlier this month, there are now over 2,000 Test-to-Treat locations nationwide, including in pharmacy-based clinics, federally-qualified community health centers (FQHCs), and long-term care facilities. As has been the case since December, people can still be tested and treated by their own health care providers who can appropriately prescribe these oral antivirals at locations where they are being distributed, now more easily identified than ever by the Test to Treat locator.
Test-to-Treat Available for All Patients in Veteran’s Health Administration and Military Personnel and Their Families. Test-to-Treat is now available for all Veterans Affairs (VA) patients in VA clinics across the country. Linking patients who test positive with treatments that are appropriate for them is the standard of care in VA clinics. Each test done in the VA is linked to a care team, and accompanied by review, patient counseling, and consideration for treatment indication and eligibility. The VA also allows individuals with a positive home test result to have a virtual visit to connect with counseling and to receive oral medication if appropriate. VA sites have access to oral antiviral treatments for COVID-19, and treatment generally is provided on site or delivered via expedited mail. In addition, the Department of Defense (DoD) has made one-stop Test-to-Treat available at more than 60 DoD Medical Treatment Facilities (MTFs) across the country, with hundreds more primed to start operating soon. MTF patients across the country—including active duty service members and TRICARE beneficiaries—can access Test-to-Treat at facilities in their communities.
Hundreds of Test-to-Treat Locations in FQHCs and Indian Health Service Facilities Across the Country to Protect Hard-Hit and High-Risk Communities from COVID-19. Test-to-Treat locations also are available in more than 240 FQHCs and Indian Health Service (IHS) Facilities across the country, ensuring access to lifesaving treatments in some of our hardest-hit and highest-risk communities. The number of these locations will continue to grow in the coming weeks, as more and more FQHCs, Rural Health Clinics, and IHS locations come online with Test-to-Treat programs. These community providers will continue to serve as trusted messengers in raising awareness about the availability of lifesaving treatments, and also partner with community-based organizations to reach specific high-risk populations, including individuals with disabilities.
ARP powered historic jobs recovery – with the largest calendar increase in jobs on record, unemployment down to 3.8%, and record drops in Hispanic Unemployment and Youth Unemployment – and ensured less scarring than any recovery in memory.
With the focus on Ukraine’s desperate fight against Russia’s criminal war and President Joe Biden’s role in marshaling the free world in its defense, little attention is being paid to the Biden Administration’s domestic actions that are having real achievements. On the one-year anniversary of the American Rescue Plan, the White House highlighted the difference the ARP is making in ordinary people’s lives; – Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Lowering Health Care Costs and Increasing Health Coverage
14.5 million Americans – the most ever – signed up for ACA marketplace plans due to, on average, 50% lower costs in premiumsfor returning consumers.
Nationwide, existing consumers with a new or updated plan selection after ARP saved an average of $67 (or 50%) per consumer per month on premiums, totaling $537 million per month in savings. In twenty states and the District of Columbia, existing consumers saved over $75 per month, on average, due to the ARP.
5.8 million more Americans have health insurance today than a year ago. Between 2016 and 2019, 3.6 million Americans lost coverage.
A family of four is saving an average of $2,400 on their annual premiums. Four out of five consumers could find quality coverage for under $10 a month.
Investing in Mental Health:
$3 billion invested in expanding access to mental health and substance use services at the state level –largest one-time investment in history for mental health and substance use programs.
Billions more in American Rescue Plan funding are being used to address mental health challenges affecting our children, including through hiring school social workers and counselors. With the help of American Rescue Plan K-12 funding, schools have already seen a 65% increase in social workers, and a 17% increase in counselors.
Distributed 200 million vaccines, and millions of therapeutics using ARP dollars.
375 million at-home tests per month now available; before ARP, no at-home tests.
$14.5 billion to address COVID for America’s veterans, including support for 37,000 homeless veterans.
Getting Kids Back in School
Today,99% of schools are open. Before ARP, only 46% of schools were open in-person.
Major Investments in Keeping Schools Open, Combatting Learning Loss & Addressing Mental Health Challenges: Independent experts estimate based on school district plans that 59% of school districts are using ARP funds to hire/retain teachers and counselors, 35% are using ARP funds to hire/retain psychologists and mental health staff, and 52% are using ARP funds for HVAC and ventilation.
A survey from the School Superintendents Association indicated 82% of superintendents plan to use funds to expand social, emotional, mental and physical health and development.
Supporting Working Families
Expanded Child Tax Credit for Working Families – Helping Deliver Record Lows in Child Poverty.
The 2021 CTC will reach a record nearly 40 million families with 65 million children.
Expanded $3,000 credit for kids age 6-17 and $3,600 for kids under 6
Experts estimate that the Child Tax Credit was the main driver in the American Rescue Plan bringing child poverty to record lows in 2021– including record low Black and Hispanic child poverty.
Economic Impact Payments for Vast Majority of Americans
Over 170 million Economic Impact Payments to 85% of all Americans – including an additional 19+ million payments to Social Security beneficiaries, 3 million payments to SSI beneficiaries, and 320,000 payments to Veterans who would not have received these benefits under normal tax filing requirements.
Ensured Kids didn’t go hungry in the summer
Estimated 30 million kids fed with first nationwide Summer supplemental nutrition program – more than 10x higher than 2019 summer meals for kids.
Unprecedented Emergency Rental Relief and Eviction Prevention
Over 4 million Emergency Rental Assistance payments to tenants in a single year – by orders of magnitude the largest eviction prevention effort in history.
Eviction filings at just 60% of historic averages in 5 months after CDC moratorium – even though some had projected an eviction tsunami.
More than doubled the amount of LIHEAP – the most ever going to help with Heating and Cooling Costs of well over 5 million households
Helping People Get Back to Work
Most One-Time Support for Childcare Providers Ever to Keep Them Open and Operating
150,000+ providers supported by childcare stabilization payments so far, the most support for childcare providers ever.
More than 5 million children served by these providers.
Expanded Earned Income Tax Credit for Workers
Tripled EITC for 17 million workers without dependent children from $540 to $1500 – first increase since 1993 – and extended the credit to younger & older workers.
Helping millions of front-line workers: This expansion will help nearly 1.8 million cashiers and retail salespeople; almost 1 million cooks and food prep workers; and more than 850,000 nurses and health aides, 500,000 janitors, 400,000 truck and delivery drivers, and 300,000 childcare workers.
Getting Americans Back to Work with State and Local Investments
Over half of states and scores of cities across the country have invested in workforcedevelopment, apprenticeships, training, and premium pay for essential workers – with premium pay to nearly 750,000 essential workers.
State and local governments added 467,000 jobs in 2021– best year since 2001.
Staying True to Our Veterans:
ARP provided resources for veterans currently receiving housing support, including an estimated37,000 homeless veterans.
ARP cancelled health care copayment charges for 2.5 million veteransduring the pandemic – worth $1 billion.
ARP Child Tax Credit expansion meant that roughly 5 million children in veteran and Active Duty families are receiving the credit for 2021, per CBPP estimates.
ARP invested in 16,000 veterans’ health care with ARP funds for 158 State Veterans Homes operations and for State Veterans Home renovations and capital projects.
ARP funding is enabling the Veterans Benefits Administration toreduce the claims backlog from 212,000 in March 2021 to 100,000 by September 2022.
Rescuing and Transforming Our Communities:
Dozens of cities and 21 states have already committed ARP Fiscal Recovery Funds to public safety, including critical investments in gun crime prevention – hiring and retaining police officers for community policing and investing in critical technology to take on increases in gun and other violent crimes, and supporting evidence-based community violence interventions and summer youth employment.
State and local, Education and HUD investments in affordable housing and fighting homelessness:
ARP Department of Education program to provide services and enable full attendance for students experiencing homelessness will reach1.5 million children.
ARP added about 70,000 emergency vouchers to the rental market through HUD.
ARP funded new housing counseling program which is expected to provide 80,000 housing counseling sessions.
Roughly half of cities and states are investing some portion of their State and Local Funds in housing assistance and investments – from New Jersey’s $750 million eviction prevention and utilities program to Austin and Travis County’s $200 million ARP investment in a comprehensive plan to take on its homelessness crisis.
Broadband Investments underway across the country:20 states have already invested Fiscal Recovery Funds to expand broadband access – in addition to $10 billion Capital Projects Fund which they can use to help ensure that all communities have access to high quality modern infrastructure needed to access critical services, including broadband.
Even with more on the way, states and territories have already announced about $9 billion in ARP investments to expand high speed internet access.
Long-needed investments in clean water: with21 states already committing Fiscal Recovery Funds to improve water and sewer infrastructure, including removing lead pipes.
Even with more on the way, states and territories have already announced investing $7.5 billion in ARP funds for water and sewer improvements.
Providing Permanent Tax Relief for Puerto Rico Families
Made hundreds of thousands of families in Puerto Rico eligible for CTC for first time – previously ~90% of families excluded from CTC.
First-ever Federal Support for Puerto Rico’s EITC, more than tripling workers’ benefits.
Most support ever for Tribal Communities
$32 billion to Tribal communities and Native people, the largest in assistance to tribal governments in history.
FACT SHEET: How The American Rescue Plan Is Keeping America’s Schools Open Safely, Combating Learning Loss, And Addressing Student Mental Health
On March 11, 2021 – one year ago – President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act into law, an unprecedented $1.9 trillion package of emergency assistance measures. The ARP provides a historic investment in America’s preschool through twelfth grade (P-12) schools in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to keep schools safely open, tackle learning loss and mental health. These funds include $122 billion for P-12 schools in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) funds. ARP also dedicated an additional $8 billion to states and school districts to meet the needs of certain student populations, including over $3 billion for students with disabilities and $800 million for children and youth experiencing homelessness.
ARP has already had a significant impact on schools across the country: over the last year, states, school districts, and schools have used these funds to safely reopen and sustain in-person instruction, combat learning loss, and address students’ mental health needs.
In his State of the Union address last week, President Biden called on schools to hire more teachers, urged the American people to sign up to be tutors and mentors, and – as part of his unity agenda – encouraged the country to come together to address child mental health. ARP ESSER funds are supporting this agenda in several ways:
Schools have gone from 46% open before ARP to 99% safe and open today: Before ARP was signed into law, just 46 percent of America’s P-12 schools were open for full-time, in-person learning. Today, over 99 percent of P-12 schools are open for full-time, in-person instruction.
ARP led to record growth in local education jobs that are critical to meeting students’ academic and mental health needs: Although there is more work to do to address longstanding educator shortages and return to pre-pandemic levels, ARP has led to record jobs growth in the education sector. With the help of ARP ESSER funding, local governments added more than 279,000 education jobs in 2021 – the best calendar year of jobs growth since records began in 1956 – and added an additional nearly 46,000 jobs in the first two months of 2022. Schools have already seen a 65% increase in social workers and a 17% increase in counselors relative to before the pandemic.
Analysis of school district plans shows overwhelming majority of funds are being used for priorities like teachers, counselors, academic recovery, mental health, and health and safety measures like ventilation improvements: FutureEd – an education think tank at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy – analyzed data on a representative sample of over 3,000 school districts’ plans covering 55% of ARP ESSER funds. This analysis showed:
Nearly 60% of funds are being used to:
invest in staffing – both retaining current staff and expanding professional development opportunities, as well as recruiting, hiring and training of new teachers, school staff and mental health professionals to increase school capacity and meet the academic and mental health needs of students;
combat learning loss through student support programs such as evidence-based tutoring, expanded after-school and summer learning and enrichment programs, and the purchase of millions of new textbooks and learning materials; and
supporting the physical and mental health of students and educators.
Another 24% is being invested in keeping schools operating safely, including providing PPE and updating school facilities to support health and safety. This includes investments in lead abatement and an estimated nearly $10 billion for improvements to HVAC and ventilation.
ARP has fueled investments in education spending and accelerated the rate of spending of education relief funds by five to six times: Before the passage of ARP, states and school districts were spending a total of a little more than $500 million per month of federal emergency relief funds for education. Since the passage of the ARP and the assurance to states and school districts that critical funds were on their way, the monthly rate of spending of ESSER funds from ARP and earlier relief legislation has accelerated to more than $3 billion per month – an increase of five to six times.
All 50 states submitted clear spending plans that have been approved by the U.S. Department of Education: On March 24, less than two weeks after ARP was signed, two-thirds of funds – $81 billion – were released. To ensure funds would be used effectively, states had to submit and receive approval on their spending plan to receive their final third of funds. As of December 2021, every state, plus DC and Puerto Rico, submitted a plan, the U.S. Department of Education has approved all plans, and all $122 billion in ARP ESSER funds have been made available to states.
Survey of 600 school superintendents shows school leaders are meeting the challenge of the President’s unity agenda by using funds for students’ mental health and other developmental needs: The COVID-19 pandemic has subjected many young Americans to social isolation, loss of routines, and traumatic grief – increasing the need for mental health supports. A recent survey by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, found that 82% of districts plan to use funds to address this need by expanding supports for social, emotional, mental, and physical health and development.
States and school districts have deployed funds strategically while engaging meaningfully with their communities – including parents: In developing their spending plans, states and school districts were required to engage members of the community, including parents, educators, students, representatives of students with disabilities and others. The U.S. Department of Education continues to encourage states and school districts to consult with these critical partners on how to ensure these funds have the most impact in classrooms.
ARP ESSER-Funded State and District Activities From the U.S. Department of Education
Safely Reopening Schools and Sustaining Safe Operations Safely reopening schools and keeping them open safely are essential for student learning and well-being.
Houston Independent School District (HISD) in Texas has allocated ARP ESSER funds to campuses for COVID-19 mitigation efforts. HISD has provided COVID-19 testing at 90 percent of its campuses and has hosted nearly 100 vaccine clinics.
The DeKalb County School District in Georgia upgraded air filters from MERV 8 to MERV 13 in every school facility that could accommodate that size filter and took steps to improve ventilation in all other schools using ARP ESSER funding.
White Plains City School District in New York will use a combination of local and federal funds to replace the HVAC units across their district to provide a safer learning environment for students and staff. Upon completion, the total project will cost $26.3 million, with nearly one-third of the funding coming from relief funds, including ARP ESSER.
Combating Learning Loss States and school districts have the resources they need, and are required to address the impacts of the pandemic on students’ learning. States and districts nationwide are using funds to hire teachers and other instructional staff, launch tutoring, summer and afterschool programs (which states are required to fund), and make long-overdue investments in instructional materials. States are specifically required to address the needs of students disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, including students with disabilities, English learners, and students experiencing homelessness.
Recruiting, Retaining, and Expanding Professional Development of Staff:
Maine School Administrative District 11 is addressing gaps in learning opportunities by using ARP ESSER funds to hire nine new teachers and implement a new math, language arts, and social studies program. The additional teachers permitted the district to reduce class sizes from 22-24 students to an average of 14-16 students. The district has provided external and internal coaching, ongoing professional learning, and additional support to educators and staff.
Gaston County Schools in North Carolina is adding an additional teacher and a temporary employee per school to decrease class sizes, help manage workloads and provide classroom coverage in each of its 54 schools using ARP ESSER funding. This supports and helps retain current teachers, who are less likely to have to give up planning time to cover another classroom, or combine classrooms, and also benefits students whose learning is less likely to be disrupted by the absence of another teacher.
The Asheville City Schools Board of Education in North Carolina is using ARP ESSER funds for a bonus of $3,000 to $3,500 over the course of the year for full-time teachers and faculty in order to increase staff retention.
Providence Public School District in Rhode Island is launching new incentives to recruit and retain highly-qualified educators, including early signing bonuses for newly-hired educators and support staff in hard-to-fill positions using ARP ESSER funding.
Summer Learning and Enrichment:
In New Mexico, the College and Career Readiness Bureau of the New Mexico Public Education Department launched the Summer Enrichment Internship Program in 2021 using ARP ESSER funding. The program covers the cost of summer internships for New Mexico high school students and provides high school students, particularly those most impacted by the pandemic, with the opportunity to participate in high-quality internships in government agencies, including county, tribal, and municipal placements. Over 300 community partners and 1,200 student interns participated across 26 counties. Summer jobs programs like these that engage students are also important community violence intervention strategies. This program will continue in the summer of 2022 as well.
Cleveland Metropolitan School District in Ohio used ARP ESSER funds to increase summer learning participation seven-fold. In 2021, 8,400 students participated in summer school, compared to 1,000-1,200 students in previous years. Focused on “Finish, Enrich, and Engage,” the expanded summer school offered 12 weeks of programming that allowed for credit accumulation and unfinished learning. Students engaged in problem-based learning units in the morning with engagement activities like clubs and sports in the afternoon. This inclusive programming, which included students with disabilities and multilingual learners, will continue in summer 2022.
The Oklahoma State Department of Education is using ARP ESSER funds to implement evidence-based summer learning and enrichment programs and to expand afterschool programming through partnerships with community organizations. They provide for social, emotional, and academic support and access to technology. This initial investment of $6 million provided services through 28 organizations, at 140 sites, serving an average 11,000 students a month through the summer of 2021.
The Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education has established the Arkansas Tutoring Corps using ARP ESSER funding. The Arkansas Tutoring Corps program includes recruitment, preparation, and support for candidates to become qualified tutors to provide instruction or intervention to meet the academic needs of students most impacted by lost instructional time. A system connects prepared candidates with organizations seeking to support students’ academic needs. The program is already enhancing learning experiences of students due to loss of instructional time and addressing gaps in foundational skills in mathematics and literacy.
Meeting Students’ Social, Emotional, and Mental Health Needs Districts and states must use a portion of ARP ESSER funds for evidence-based interventions that respond to students’ social, and emotional needs – such as the ability to collaborate with others or persist through difficult challenges – and to support students’ mental health. Districts must specifically address the impact of the pandemic on groups of students that were disproportionately impacted.
Hiring Counselors and Increasing Supports:
The Kansas Department of Education has developed a Grow Your Own Counselor model with ARP ESSER funding that encourages districts to identify candidates and employ them as student services coordinators while they develop their skills in an approved school counseling graduate program.
The Nevada Department of Education has allocated $7.5 million to support districts in hiring 100 additional school based mental health professionals. Using ARP ESSER funding, the state is spending $1.7 million to hire a Multi-Tiered Systems of Support coach for every district.
Plymouth-Canton Community Schools in Michigan hired three full-time high school counseling staff to decrease counselor caseloads with ARP ESSER funding. Counselors are now able to dedicate more time to individual student meetings, attend meetings with assistant principals and deans to review academic progress and other needs of students, and develop a wellness center at each campus.
The New York City Department of Education announced an investment of $10 million to expand the district’s research-based community schools initiative from 266 to 406 sites citywide using ARP ESSER funding. These schools provide integrated student support services to students and the surrounding community, such as mental health care, adult education courses, community violence intervention programs, and nutrition support.
Strengthening the Educator Workforce The pandemic has taken a toll on the nation’s educators as well as its students. States and districts should support and stabilize the educator workforce and make staffing decisions that will help address students’ social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs.
The Tennessee Department of Education has created a “Grow Your Own” grant with federal funding, including ARP ESSER, that is designed to foster partnerships between educator preparation programs (EPPs) and districts to provide promising and innovative, no-cost pathways to the teaching profession by increasing EPP enrollment and growing the supply of qualified teachers. The program is currently comprised of 65 partnerships between 14 EPPs and 63 districts across the state – enabling over 650 future educators to become a Tennessee teacher for free. $6.5 million has been allocated to this program thus far. Tennessee also pioneered a pathway with the U.S. Department of Labor by establishing the nation’s first registered apprenticeship program for teachers, which will help sustain the state’s Grow Your Own programs and partnerships leveraging federal apprenticeship funding.
Our country needed an emergency response that was worthy of the crisis we faced. A response that would leave no stone unturned, that would leverage the full force of the federal government, the innovation of the private sector, and the determination of the American people. On President Biden’s first full day in office, he released the first-ever comprehensive National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response. This strategy focused on building a response to this virus that would give people the tools they needed to protect themselves, reopen our schools, and get our economy moving again.
The U.S. government has spent the last year executing on that strategy. To get this country moving in the right direction, we worked hand-in-hand with doctors, nurses, businesses, unions, community organizations, governors, mayors, and citizens across every state, Tribe, and territory.
As a result, today, 215 million people are fully vaccinated and two-thirds of eligible adults have gotten their booster shot. We have multiple treatment options, including life-saving pills, and continue to fill the nation’s medicine cabinet. Testing capacity has dramatically increased and we have plenty of free, high-quality masks available to the American people. Schools are open and the economy is experiencing the fastest economic growth in four decades.
America must maintain the tools – vaccines, boosters, treatments, tests, and masks – to protect against COVID-19 and dramatically decrease the risk of the most severe outcomes. We must be prepared to respond to a new variant quickly and keep our schools and businesses open.
Today, the U.S. government is releasing an update to our National Strategy – the National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan – which will help move America forward safely. This plan lays out the roadmap to help us fight COVID-19 in the future as we move America from crisis to a time when COVID-19 does not disrupt our daily lives and is something we prevent, protect against, and treat. We look to a future when Americans no longer fear lockdowns, shutdowns, and our kids not going to school. It’s a future when the country relies on the powerful layers of protection we have built and invests in the next generation of tools to stay ahead of this virus.
The National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan is clear-eyed that new variants might arise. And with the support of Congress, it outlines a plan to ensure that vaccines, tests, and treatments can be updated and deployed quickly to protect against a new variant.
Make no mistake, President Biden will not accept just “living with COVID” any more than we accept “living with” cancer, Alzheimer’s, or AIDS. We will continue our work to stop the spread of the virus, blunt its impact on those who get infected, and deploy new treatments to dramatically reduce the occurrence of severe COVID-19 disease and deaths.
We are not going to just “live with COVID.” Because of our work, we are no longer going to let COVID-19 dictate how we live.
To fully execute on this plan requires Congress doing its part to invest in tools that work. Additional funding will be necessary to provide critical treatments like pills and monoclonal antibodies; to make further investments to shore up America’s testing supply; to provide resources that guard against and prepare for new variants; and to continue to fight this virus abroad. Without these investments, many of the activities described below cannot be initiated or sustained.
America has made strong progress in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress providing the resources needed to execute this plan will be critical to getting America back to our normal routines while protecting people from COVID-19, preparing for new variants, and preventing economic and educational shutdowns. Because of our work over the last two years, we can begin to move forward safely.
The President’s National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan focuses on four key goals:
Protect against and treat COVID-19
Prepare for new variants
Prevent economic and educational shutdowns
Continue to lead the effort to vaccinate the world and save lives
1: Protect against and treat COVID-19
The United States has experienced five waves of the pandemic since 2020, including three in the past year that were driven by new variants. America experienced a wave of COVID-19 cases driven by the Alpha variant in early Spring 2021 – a time when the U.S. vaccination program was administering a record number of vaccines every day. The Delta variant, which was more than twice as contagious as the original coronavirus strain, then swept across the country starting in Summer 2021, beginning in the South and spreading to the Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions.
Omicron represented another step in the virus’s evolution, and has been one of the most contagious viruses in history, causing record numbers of infections around the world over the past three months. However, because of both lower severity of the Omicron variant and a stronger level of population immunity from vaccinations, Omicron has caused relatively fewer cases of severe COVID-19. Compared to prior waves of COVID-19 in the United States, the Omicron wave has had a lower proportion of cases resulting in hospitalization or death.
America has weathered the current Omicron wave with minimal disruption – schools and businesses largely remained open. As the country emerges from the Omicron wave,our path forward relies on maintaining and continually enhancing the numerous tools we now have to protect ourselves and our loved ones – from vaccines, to tests, to treatments, to masks, and more.
In January 2021, Americans had very few tools to protect against COVID-19, and the tools we did have were in limited supply. Over the last year, together, with states, localities, and public and private partners, the Administration has mobilized an unprecedented, whole-of-society effort to give Americans the tools they need to protect themselves.
The Administration has put vaccines at the center of our COVID-19 response because vaccines are the best tool we have to prevent hospitalization and death. We stood up the largest free vaccination program in our country’s history – mobilizing 90,000 vaccination locations, standing up dozens of federally-run mass vaccination sites with the ability to administer more than a combined 125,000 shots a day, and deploying over 9,000 federal personnel to support vaccinations nationwide – including over 5,000 active duty troops.
The nation’s testing supply has increased dramatically. We now have free testing sites at 21,500 locations around the country. In January 2021, there were no rapid, at-home tests on the market available to Americans; during January 2022, there were more than 480 million at-home tests available to Americans on top of all other testing options. And we stood up COVIDtests.gov so Americans could order tests that shipped directly to their homes — for free. Private insurance and Medicaid now cover rapid at-home tests for free, and Medicare will fully cover these at-home tests starting this spring.
The path forward in the fight against COVID-19 is clear: we must maintain and continually enhance the tools we have to protect against and treat COVID-19. The Administration looks forward to working with Congress to ensure that we have the resources to do just that.
Because we have these tools, we can begin to get back to our more normal routines safely and the use of public health mitigation measures like masking can be less frequent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its framework for recommendations on preventive measures like masking, so masks are recommended when and where they matter the most and Americans will be wearing masks less often.
Make no mistake, as America moves forward we will leave no one behind. Equity will remain at the very center of our path forward in the fight against COVID-19. And we will be there to support Americans with the long-term impacts of COVID-19, including people experiencing Long COVID or mental and behavioral health challenges; as well as families suffering from the tragedy of losing someone they loved.
Launch an effort to vaccinate America’s youngest children as soon as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes and the CDC recommends a vaccine for that age group. If the FDA authorizes and the CDC recommends a vaccine for children under five years of age, the United States is prepared to immediately distribute vaccines through a network of thousands of pediatricians’ offices, children’s hospitals, health centers, and local sites, so that vaccines are made available conveniently to families across the country.
Ensure that Americans – of all ages – can get the protection of an effective vaccine. The Administration will continue to ensure that all Americans have ready access to free and safe vaccines, because vaccines are the most effective defense against COVID-19. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will also continue to monitor the efficacy and durability of currently authorized vaccines against current and future variants and make recommendations to optimize protection.
Increase American manufacturing capacity to reliably produce an additional 1 billion vaccine doses per year – three times the U.S. population – and accelerate research and development of a single COVID vaccine that protects against SARS-CoV-2 and all its variants, as well as previous SARS-origin viruses. To ensure that people stay protected, the U.S. government will continue to use advance purchasing agreements when appropriate and work closely with vaccine manufacturers to produce shots quickly and safely. Fully supporting this effort to scale up domestic vaccine manufacturing will require additional resources from Congress. Additionally, we will maintain a network of tens of thousands of sites to deliver shots to the American people at any time this effort is needed.
Continue vaccination outreach and education efforts and combat misinformation and disinformation. HHS will continue its work to equip Americans with the tools to identify misinformation and to invest in longer-term efforts to build resilience against health misinformation.
Update the framework for recommendations on preventive measures like masking to reflect the current state of the disease. Masks have been a critical tool to protect ourselves, but they have a time and a place. With a broad range of other protective tools in place, the CDC has announced an updated framework for guidance on preventive measures like masking – moving away from simply basing broad recommendations on case counts and test positivity, and instead encouraging prevention measures like masking when they are most needed to minimize severe disease and to keep our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed in times when COVID-19 is surging. By monitoring community risk, masks can be worn when the risk of severe disease in the community is high and taken off when the risk is low. Overall, it means Americans will be wearing masks less because so many people are protected from severe disease.
Launch a one-stop-shop website that allows Americans to easily find public health guidance based on the COVID-19 risk in their local area and access tools to protect themselves. The Administration will launch a website where Americans can find the level of COVID-19 risk in their community and specific guidance based on that risk. The site will also point people to the tools we now have to fight COVID-19, such as locating a vaccination site in their neighborhood or finding a free high-quality mask at a local grocery store or pharmacy.
Sustain and increase American manufacturing of COVID-19 tests, so we can continue to have a robust supply of tests. The Administration will continue to use the expedited authorization process to help test manufacturers get tests to market quickly; maintain America’s network of thousands of free testing sites; use the Defense Production Act (DPA) and other authorities, where warranted, to increase manufacturing capacity; and invest in innovation to make tests less expensive. These continued investments in testing will require additional funding from Congress.
Prioritize protections for immunocompromised people and take new actions to protect individuals with disabilities and older adults. The Administration will continue to provide strong support for the immunocompromised, including providing prioritized access to treatments and preventive interventions – pending additional funding from Congress – as well as ensuring access to boosters. The Administration will also increase equitable access to testing and COVID-19 mitigation resources for people with disabilities and older adults, and engage industry to accelerate research and development of accessible self-tests. Securing sufficient preventive treatments for people who are immunocompromised will require additional funding from Congress.
Help Americans with the long-term impacts of COVID-19. In recognition of the wide-reaching long-term impacts of COVID-19 on our society, the President will direct the U.S. government toaccelerate efforts to detect, prevent, and treat Long COVID; coordinate efforts to provide support to families who have experienced the COVID-related loss of a loved one; and attend to the mental health and well-being of our communities. The Administration will also propose to make new investments in health care workers to support their mental health and well-being.
Ensure equitable access to COVID-19 health care and public health resources. The Administration will continue to prioritize providing equitable access to COVID-19 health care and public health resources – including personal protective equipment (PPE), tests, treatments, masks, and vaccines; and address COVID-related health inequities among communities defined by race, ethnicity, geography, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other factors. The U.S. government will support dedicated resources for local community-based organizations, community health centers, and rural health clinics.
2. Prepare for new variants
As we work to keep ourselves protected against COVID-19, America must remain prepared for any new variant that may come our way. To do so, the Administration has developed a comprehensive plan for how we monitor this virus to stay ahead of it, adapt our tools swiftly to combat a new variant, and deploy emergency resources to help communities.
Before January 2021, the federal government had insufficient data and sequencing capabilities and was ill-equipped to respond to new variants. Electronic case reporting was in place for only a handful of states in 2020 and the country could sequence only 3,000 viral isolates per week. America had no plan for responding to a new variant or standing up comprehensive efforts to respond to a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Moving forward, the Administration will maintain our proven data, sequencing, variant response, and surge response capabilities. The CDC will continue to improve COVID-19 data collection, reporting, and analysis so America is better informed and ready to respond to new variants. And if new variants emerge, the federal government will leverage established playbooks to assess a new variant’s impact on our vaccines, treatments, and tests, and rapidly deploy the tools, personnel, and resources Americans need. America will also retain a significant stockpile of tools to combat COVID-19 that remain ready for deployment.
The Administration will work with Congress to secure the necessary funding to:
Improve our data collection, sequencing, and wastewater surveillance capabilities to immediately identify and detect new and emerging variants; and strengthen pandemic preparedness. The U.S. government willcontinue improvements to COVID-19 disease and vaccination data collection, wastewater surveillance, and virus sequencing capacity so we are better prepared to respond rapidly to emerging threats. This includes strengthening data infrastructure and interoperability so that more jurisdictions can link case surveillance and hospital data to vaccine data. The Administration is also leveraging COVID-19 response capabilities into stronger pandemic preparedness.
Support new FDA processes to expedite regulatory review of variant-specific versions of vaccines and treatments, so Americans can get them quickly if needed. FDA has developed new approaches to accelerate the authorization of a vaccine or treatment that targets any new variant while maintaining strict and longstanding practices to ensure the safety and efficacy of the products.
Leverage a proven COVID-19 Surge Response Playbook. The Administration has developed acomprehensive emergency response COVID-19 surge playbook to stand up mass vaccination and testing sites, expedite deployments of surge medical and emergency personnel, expand hospitals and emergency facilities, and provide emergency supplies.
Add at-home tests, antiviral pills, and masks for the general population to America’s stockpile for the first time. America will stockpile new categories of supplies including at-home tests, antiviral pills, and masks for the general population for the first time. The Administration will also maintain a fully stocked Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) with an inventory of masks, ventilators, gloves, gowns, and hospital equipment. The U.S. government will be ready to deploy supplies to the American people to ensure adequate supply in times of surges, COVID-19 outbreaks, or new variants.
The U.S. government has established a permanent logistics and operational hub at HHS to ensure accelerated development, production, and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. The Administration has transitionedan emergency logistics and operational organization into a permanent agency structure at HHS, which has allowed the Administration to build on its progress, retain expertise and skills, and continue providing the necessary tools to the American people during this pandemic and for any future disease outbreaks.
3. Prevent economic and educational shutdowns
Our path forward relies on giving schools and businesses the tools they need to prevent economic and educational shutdowns, so that our students can remain safe in school, our workers can be safe at work, and our economy can continue to grow.
At the beginning of last year, America was experiencing widespread school and business shutdowns: only 46% of K-12 schools were open for in-person learning, and millions of businesses had closed and tens of millions of Americans had lost their jobs in 2020. Throughout the last year, the Administration worked to provide schools, child care providers, and businesses with the necessary tools and resources to safely open, while keeping our children, students, and workers safe.
The Administration provided a historic investment of $130 billion from the American Rescue Plan to reopen schools by improving school ventilation, accessing tests, and hiring more teachers, nurses, and staff. To protect workers and keep our businesses open, the Administration launched the largest vaccination campaign in history – working hand-in-hand with the business community; and requiring vaccinations where we could, including for federal workers.
Today, about 99% of K-12 schools are open for in-person learning. And since President Biden took office, there has been historic job growth. The U.S. economy created 6.6 million jobs in 2021 – the strongest job growth of any year on record – and grew 5.7% in 2021, the fastest pace of economic growth in nearly four decades. The U.S. was also the first major economy to exceed its pre-pandemic economic output.
The path forward in the fight against COVID-19 is clear: schools, workers, and workplaces have resources and guidance to prevent shutdowns.
The Administration will work with Congress to secure the necessary funding to:
Give schools and businesses guidance, tests, and supplies to stay open, including tools to improve ventilation and air filtration. The U.S. government will also provide a Clean Air in Buildings Checklist that all buildings can use to improve indoor ventilation and air filtration and will encourage uptake of ventilation improvements. The Administration will also provide technical assistance that encourages schools, public buildings, and state, local, and Tribal governments to make ventilation improvements and upgrades using American Rescue Plan funds.
Update guidance for employers to ensure safer workplaces. The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will update workplace guidance to better equip employers with the tools they need to ensure safe workplaces, including guidance on how employers can continue to support increased vaccination and boosting of their employees; support workers such as people who are immunocompromised who choose to wear high-quality masks; limit workplace-based infections; and enhance ventilation.
Engage early care and education providers to help them remain safely open and help parents return to work with peace of mind. Early care and education providers, including child care centers, family child care providers, pre-K and more, have been essential in our fight against COVID-19. The Administration invested $40 billion in American Rescue Plan funds to states, territories, and Tribes to help child care providers and Head Start grantees keep their doors open and provide safe care that is crucial for parents getting back to work. Building on this funding, the Administration will continue to engage the community of early care and education providers to ensure they have tools and support to stay safely open and to continue supporting our families.
With the vast majority of federal workers at their workplaces, substantially expand levels of services at public-facing federal offices (like local Social Security offices). COVID-19 no longer needs to dictate how we work.Federal agencies will lead by example, increasing the hours public-facing federal offices are open for in-person appointments and in-person interactions in the month of April.
4. Continue to lead the effort to vaccinate the world and save lives
Fighting this virus abroad is key to America’s effort to protect people and stay ahead of new variants. To do so, we will continue to lead in providing vaccines to the world, helping to get those vaccines into arms, and deploying emergency supplies to countries experiencing surges in COVID-19. We will also continue to advance sustainable capacity and financing for health security to fight COVID-19 variants.
In addition, the U.S. government has delivered life-saving resources like oxygen, treatments, PPE, and other essential supplies worth more than $1 billion to countries experiencing outbreaks. U.S. government public health experts from the CDC, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Department of State (State), HHS and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and other entities are working side-by-side with on-the-ground providers, providing technical assistance in vaccine program implementation, care provision, and outbreak investigation. We have increased the world’s capacity to manufacture vaccines and have fostered an enabling environment for innovation, including by spurring African manufacturing.
Over the last year, the Biden Administration pioneered the model to donate and deliver surplus vaccines to the rest of the world. America was the first country to announce a purchase of doses solely for donation to other countries; the first country to give up our place in line for vaccines – allowing the African Union to immediately start receiving up to 110 million doses of Moderna at a reduced rate negotiated by the United States; and the first country to negotiate a deal to send vaccines directly to humanitarian settings and conflict zones to vaccinate displaced persons.
The path forward in the pandemic will require doubling down on our commitment to help vaccinate the globe and to save lives by making tests, treatments, and PPE widely available.
The Administration will work with Congress to secure the necessary funding to:
Leverage the vaccine donation model America pioneered to deliver the 1.2 billion doses we committed to donate to the rest of the world. America will continue todeliver the 1.2 billion doses we committed to donate to countries in need, continuing to leverage the partnerships the U.S. government built to donate and deliver vaccines to the rest of the world.
Increase efforts to get shots in arms around the world. The U.S. government will increase investment in the Initiative for Global Vaccine Access (Global VAX), an ambitious global vaccination initiative to get doses into arms by working with partner countries to more quickly implement their plans. This includes supporting efforts such as jumpstarting communications campaigns, providing and supporting vaccinators on the front lines, purchasing cold chain supplies and syringes, paying for shipping and logistics to expedite vaccine delivery to hard-to-reach areas, ensuring people at high risk of hospitalization and deaths like the elderly and immunocompromised are vaccinated, and building vaccine confidence on the ground. Expanded global shots-in-arms efforts will require additional funding from Congress.
Save lives by solving the oxygen crisis and making emergency supplies widely available. The U.S. government will make oxygen and PPE available; enhance testing; provide treatments; strengthen global health systems to fight COVID-19; protect health workers from COVID-19 and essential health services from COVID-19 disruptions; improve detection, monitoring and mitigation of new COVID-19 variants; and increase regional and local manufacturing of countermeasures. These continued investments will require additional funding from Congress.
Continue global leadership on the COVID-19 responseand build better health security for the future. The U.S. government will continue to work to build better capacity to fight COVID-19, manage future variants, and advance health security and preparedness for future pandemics. America is committed to establishing a new health security financial intermediary fund at the World Bank in 2022, and we call on all countries and public and private organizations to commit to urgent action to assist in the global COVID-19 response.
The White House detailed the consequences of Congress failing to fund efforts to combat COVID-19. Republicans have continually politicized what is a public health crisis, prolonging the epidemic and exacerbating the worst consequences – on health, life, hospitals and medical workers as well as the economy. Now Republicans are even promising to revoke the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) if they take control of Congress, as they had tried over 60 times before. It is as if they are prolonging the misery in order to have something to attack President Joe Biden and Democrats, when Biden’s historic efforts to test, vaccinate and treat the country (free), have saved a million lives. Now the country is first beginning to address the effects of long-COVID that will affect untold millions.
In a press call, a senior administration official stated, “Our scientific and medical experts have been clear that in the next couple of months we could see COVID cases increase here in the U.S., just as we’re seeing cases rising abroad right now. That’s why we remain laser-focused on fighting COVID and preparing for the future.
The President has laid out a comprehensive National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan to continue the progress we’ve made and to ensure we keep the country moving forward safely.
We asked for immediate funding needed to start to implement that plan.
In fact, for months, we’ve made clear to Congress, on a bipartisan basis, that the funding for tests, treatments, and vaccines was drying up and that additional funds would be needed.
In January, we notified the Hill that funding would be needed after the Omicron surge. In February, we briefed appropriators and authorizers about the status of funds and the consequences if there were no additional funds.
We sent a formal request of $22.5 billion to the Hill, again being clear of what we could not do without more funding.
The President called for additional funding in his State of the Union address; outlined in a 96-page plan, made clear that more funding is needed.
And our team has held more than two dozen calls and meetings with members of Congress about this emergency funding request.
We have been clear: We hoped Congress would provide these resources, as lawmakers have done multiple times on a bipartisan basis under the prior administration.
Further inaction will set us back; leave us unprepared — less prepared; and cost us more lives.
We need Congress to provide the $22.5 billion in emergency immediate funding.
Now, let me walk through some of the immediate consequences of a lack of funding.
First, on vaccines: Without additional funding, we do not have the adequate resources to purchase enough booster shots for all Americans if an additional shot is needed.
Keep in mind, when Congress passed the supplemental bill in December of 2020 and the American Rescue Plan, the mRNA vaccines were envisioned as a two-shot vaccine. We’ve now administered nearly 100 million booster shots, and four shots are now recommended and available for immunocompromised people.
To ensure enough fourth doses for all Americans or a variant-specific vaccine should we ever need them, we must have funding in hand.
Vaccines are our most effective tool. We cannot be caught without the ability to move quickly to get more of the most effective vaccines available as soon as we are able.
Next, on treatments: To date, we have shipped over 7 million courses of treatments to the American people. And in many cases, we have sent federal medical personnel to states to help administer those treatments. When Omicron hit, the federal government stepped in to ramp up delivery of the last remaining treatment that worked.
These efforts have saved lives in every state in the country.
We have planned — we had planned to purchase additional monoclonals as soon as next week. Without additional funding, we are cancelling those plans. And as we will make clear to governors later this morning, we also need to cut the number of monoclonal antibody treatments we send to states by 30 percent starting next week.
Even with these cuts, we anticipate that our supply of monoclonal antibody treatments will run out as soon as late May.
Next, on the preventative treatments for immunocompromised Americans: We have purchased 1.7 million doses of AstraZeneca’s Evusheld — all that they could produce to date.
AstraZeneca recently told us that they will be — they will have additional supply that will be available for delivery starting in September. These are doses we had planned to purchase as soon as the end of March.
Without more funding, the federal government will now be forced to scale back on that purchase. So, we’ll likely run out of treatments for our most vulnerable Americans by the end of the year, if not sooner.
The bottom line on treatments is this: Without additional funding soon, thousands of patients could lose access to treatments, and these companies will have little incentive to continue investing in the development and manufacturing of these treatments.
Next, on the uninsured fund: [The Administration] notified Congress in February that this fund that reimburses doctors and other medical providers for caring for uninsured individuals was running out of money and would have to stop taking new claims in March.
Unfortunately, we’re now having to take that action.
HHS will begin to scale back this program starting next week and end it completely in early April.
This means doctors, nurses, pharmacists, labs, and other healthcare providers will no longer be reimbursed for tests, treatments, and vaccinations for people without health insurance.
And finally, in addition to all of these impacts to our domestic response, the lack of funding greatly impacts our global response.
Without more funding, USAID and our interagency partners will have to cut short efforts to turn vaccines into vaccinations around the world.
In fact, the administration won’t be able to extend surge support to over 20 additional under-vaccinated countries that will need intensive support this year to get shots in arms.
This will devastate our ability to ensure these countries can effectively deploy safe and effective vaccines. And leaving large unvaccinated populations worldwide will increase the risk of new deadly emerging — of variants emerging that could evade our current vaccines and treatments.
Without additional funding, USAID will also be unable to provide lifesaving supplies, tests, therapeutics, oxygen, and other humanitarian aid to countries still struggling to manage a continued COVID disease burden.
Here is the White House fact sheet:
The U.S. has made tremendous progress in our fight against COVID-19. Over the past 14 months, the Biden Administration has made vital investments – using resources Congress provided on a bipartisan basis – to make sure the American people have free and widely available access to lifesaving tools: vaccines, booster shots, treatments, tests, and high-quality masks. As we enter a new moment in the pandemic, Congress has not provided us with the funding we need to continue the COVID-19 response and minimize the pandemic’s impact to the Nation and our economy. With cases rising abroad, scientific and medical experts have been clear that in the next couple of months there could be increasing cases of COVID-19 here in the U.S as well. As the Administration has warned, failure to fund these efforts now will have severe consequences as we will not be equipped to deal with a future surge. Waiting to provide funding once we’re in a surge will be too late.
Without funding, the United States will not have enough additional boosters or variant specific vaccines, if needed, for all Americans. The federal government is unable to purchase additional life-saving monoclonal antibody treatments and will run out of supply to send to states as soon as late May. The federal government cannot purchase sufficient quantities of treatments for immunocompromised individuals. And, the federal government will be unable to sustain the testing capacity we built over the last 14 months, as we head into the second half of the year.
Earlier this month, President Biden laid out a comprehensive plan to ensure that the country can continue to move forward safely and remain prepared to fight new variants and future surges of the virus. And the Administration has been clear that we need Congress to provide additional resources, including $22.5 billion in immediate emergency funding. Inaction will set us back in this fight, leave us less prepared, and cost us more lives.
Consequences of lack of critical funding include:
Inability to Secure Sufficient Booster Doses and Variant Specific Vaccines, If Needed: The federal government does not have adequate resources to purchase enough booster vaccine doses for all Americans, if additional doses are needed. The shortages will be even more acute if we need a variant-specific booster vaccine, since we will not have any existing supply.
Providers No Longer Able to Submit Claims for Testing, Treating, and Vaccinating the Uninsured: The fund that reimburses doctors and other medical providers for caring for uninsured individuals will start to be scaled back this month and end completely in early April. Specifically, one week from today – March 22 — the Uninsured Program will stop accepting new claims for testing and treatment due to lack of sufficient funds. Providers will no longer be able to submit claims for providing these services to uninsured individuals, forcing providers to either absorb the cost or turn away people who are uninsured, increasing the disparity in access to critically needed health care and putting additional burdens on safety net providers. Three weeks from today—April 5—the Uninsured Program will also stop accepting vaccination claims due to a lack of sufficient funds.
Ending the Purchase of Monoclonal Antibody Treatments, Scaling Back State/Territory Allocations: The federal government has no more funding f0r additional monoclonals, including a planned order for March 25. To date, the federal government has been able to provide these life-saving treatments free of charge to Americans and work with states to make sure they get to as many people as possible who need them. In order to keep these treatments free and available to the American people for as long as possible, the Administration will now have to stretch our current supply and, starting next week, will be forced to cut state allocations of our limited existing supply of life-saving monoclonal antibody treatments by more than 30%.
Halting Critical Testing, Vaccine, Treatment Efforts: The President’s National Preparedness Plan was clear that the federal government must invest in next-generation vaccines and treatments and maintain our testing capacity in order to fight COVID-19 in the future. Now, without additional funding, we do not have the ability to:
Purchase additional oral antiviral pills beyond the 20 million already secured.
Pre-purchase promising new antivirals. The reason why the Administration has been able to secure more oral antiviral pills than any other country is because we committed to purchasing them early, even prior to an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). As even more effective pills potentially become available, the federal government is no longer able to make advance purchase commitments to ensure America is one of the first countries in line.
Accelerate the creation of a next-generation, pan-COVID vaccine that would provide broad protection against a range of variants. Vaccines are the most effective tool to prevent COVID-19, and the Administration does not have the funding for necessary investments in research and to support the development of promising new vaccine candidates. Such next-generation vaccines hold potential to broaden protection against known and future variants, reduce dosing through single-dose primary regimens with extended duration of protection (i.e., longer interval between boosters or possible elimination of boosters altogether), and reduce costs by increasing manufacturing yields and extending shelf life.
Maintain our domestic testing capacity beyond June. After spending the last year building up our testing capacity, that progress will be squandered, the Administration will be unable to help keep domestic manufacturers online starting in June. That means, heading into the second half of the year, there will be significantly diminished domestic testing capacity and we may be unprepared for surges.
Scaling Back Planned Purchases of Preventive Treatments for Immunocompromised: The federal government has been planning to move forward with a purchase of preventative treatments for the immunocompromised as soon as March 31 that would begin delivery in September, once the treatments are manufactured. However, absent additional funding the federal government will now be forced to scale back that purchase of treatments for our most vulnerable. Because these treatments take more than 6 months to manufacture, the United States will likely not have enough of these treatments by the end of the year. And being unable to make additional purchase commitments now likely means that fewer treatments will be available next year as well.
Reducing Ability to Rapidly Identify and Assess Emerging Variants. Robust surveillance and research are critical to identify, understand and monitor emerging variants. With reduced capability to perform adequate surveillance, the country will be prone to being “blindsided” by future variants. In the absence of funding to immediately assess lab-based efficacy and real-world effectiveness of existing vaccines and treatments as new variants emerge, health care professionals will be forced to make insufficiently informed treatment decisions. The Administration will need to wind down some COVID surveillance investments, leaving us less able to detect the next variant.
Damage to Global Vaccination and COVID-19 Treatment Efforts: Without additional funding to support getting shots into arms, USAID and interagency partners will have to cut short efforts to turn vaccines into vaccinations across the globe. Leaving large unvaccinated populations worldwide will increase the risk of new deadly variants emerging that could evade our current vaccines and treatments. Without additional funds, the Administration would be unable to extend Global VAX surge support to 20+ additional under-vaccinated countries that will need intensive support this year to get shots in arms. This will devastate our ability to ensure those countries can effectively deploy safe and effective vaccines. USAID will also be unable to provide life-saving supplies, tests, therapeutics, oxygen, and humanitarian aid to countries still struggling to manage a continuing COVID disease burden.
In addition to the immediate need for funding, in order to facilitate a smooth transition to insurance coverage of life-savings COVID treatments the Administration is requesting that Congress provides authority to ensure seamless access to Medicare and insurance coverage for treatments under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).
Statewide Indoor Business Mask or Vaccine Requirement to be Lifted Starting February 10, Remains Optional for Businesses, Local Governments, Counties
Masks Will Still Be Required In Hospitals, Nursing Homes, Shelters, Transportation and Other Related Entities
Requirements Related To Masks in Schools Continue and Will Be Reevaluated in Early March, After Mid-Winter Break, Based on Public Health Data
Health Care, Business and Labor Leaders Praise Governor Hochul’s Scientific, Evidence-Based COVID-19 Response
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced New York’s new Winter Toolkit for the new phase of the pandemic, aiming to keep New York safe, open and moving forward. The Winter Toolkit focuses on five core areas: protecting the most vulnerable New Yorkers, increasing vaccinations and boosters, strengthening our health care system, empowering local leaders, and supporting individuals facing the long-term effects of COVID.
“As we begin a new phase in our response to this pandemic, my top priority is making sure we keep New York safe, open and moving forward,” Governor Hochul said. “I want to thank the health care workers, business owners and everyday New Yorkers who acted responsibly during the Omicron surge by masking up and getting vaccinated. But make no mistake: while we’re moving in the right direction, this pandemic isn’t over and our new Winter Toolkit shows us the path forward.”
Governor Hochul announced that the statewide indoor business mask-or-vaccine requirement will be lifted starting Thursday, February, 10, and will remain optional for businesses, local governments and counties to enforce. This protocol, a temporary measure implemented on December 10 as statewide cases spiked, was an effective tool to address the winter surge and the rise of the Omicron variant. With case counts plummeting and hospitalizations sharply declining, this temporary measure is no longer needed statewide. Counties, cities, and businesses will be able to opt into the mask-or-vaccine requirement if they so choose.
Masks remain a critical tool to fight the spread of COVID-19, and mask requirements will remain in place in certain high-density settings. All health care settings regulated by the Department of Health and other related state agencies will continue to require masks. Masks will also be required in nursing homes, adult care facilities, correctional facilities, detention centers, homeless shelters, and domestic violence shelters, public transit and transportation hubs, as well as trains, planes and airports in accordance with federal regulations.
Governor Hochul also announced plans to assess the mask requirement in schools in early March, to ensure students can continue learning in-person and in the classroom. The assessment will be based on public health data, including key metrics like cases per 100,000 residents, hospital admission rates, vaccination rates, global trends and pediatric hospitalizations. Plans are already underway to distribute two tests for every K-12 student ahead of midwinter break, and continue distribution the following week when students return to school. In the meantime, Governor Hochul has directed the Department of Health to work on preliminary guidance, with input from educators and parents, to keep students and teachers safe.
With a new phase of the pandemic beginning, Governor Hochul unveiled a new Winter Toolkit to help keep New Yorkers safe. The toolkit includes efforts to:
Protect the most vulnerable
Increase access to vaccines, boosters and testing
Strengthen the health system
Empower local leaders
Support New Yorkers facing long-term COVID effects
Protecting the Most Vulnerable
New York State will continue to acquire and distribute masks and tests to New Yorkers to ensure those who need them can access them. The state’s test stockpile contains 92 million tests. Over 14.2 million tests have been distributed to schools and tests will continue to be distributed as needed. 4.2 tests have been distributed to nursing homes, 2.4 million tests to adult care/congregate facilities, and 4 million tests to counties.
1.28 million masks have been distributed to nursing homes and 5.5 million masks have been distributed to counties.
Visitation rules in nursing homes will remain in place. Visitors must show proof of a negative test within 24 hours of their visit and masks will remain required.
Tests will be made widely available for students so that K-12 student can go home for their Midwinter Break with two tests.
Increase Access to Vaccines, Boosters and Testing
New York State’s mass vaccination and testing sites will remain open to ensure all eligible New Yorkers can access first, second, and third doses for themselves and their children.
The State’s #VaxForKids pop-up programming continues to expand with 63 new sites established today and 193 sites established to date. This effort brings the vaccine directly to parents, guardians, and their children at local schools, community centers, and destinations like farmer’s markets to make getting vaccinated convenient and accessible for families.
New York State is actively preparing for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to come online for children under 5 years old.
The State’s robust education efforts to reach New Yorkers with good, science-based information about the vaccine is on-going including through traditional advertising, digital and multimedia campaigns, and direct messaging efforts through SMS text messaging, robo-calling, and Excelsior Pass push notifications.
All 61 state-operated and state-partnered testing sites will remain open to provide New Yorkers with access to COVID-19 testing.
Testing also remains widely available at over 1,800 sites statewide in every region of the State.
Strengthen the Healthcare System
To troubleshoot shortage issues, Executive Order 4 to increase staffing flexibility will remain in place. National Guard will continue to be trained to be able to staff in places needed as well.
As part of the Governor’s Winter Surge Plan 2.0, the State has already deployed 20-member Medical Specialty Teams from the U.S. military hospital support team to Erie County Medical Center, a 35-member team to SUNY Upstate in Syracuse, 92 new ambulance teams to different regions in the state, including 50 to NYC, and two Medical Specialty Teams (MSTs) of 20 personnel from the Department of Defense to Strong Memorial Hospital.
Governor Hochul also outlined investments to strengthen the health care system in her 2022 State of the State Address and FY 2023 Budget. $10 billion will be invested to grow the health care workforce by twenty percent in five years. $4 billion will be invested in wages and bonuses to stop the hemorrhaging of health care staff. $1.6 billion will be invested via the Capital Plan.
Empower Local Leaders
Governor Hochul’s announcement today comes after consultation with local leaders on steps the state is taking to fight COVID-19.
Support New Yorkers Facing Long-Term COVID Effects
Last Thursday, the State’s Department of Health hosted an expert forum on Long COVID and over 2,000 individuals registered to view the panels. Panelists included specialists, clinicians, social scientists, patients and advocates who shared their experience, expertise, and insights.
This discussion, as well as continued focus and study by the Department, will inform the State’s response which will span policy, regulatory, and program considerations to support New Yorkers suffering from long COVID as well as the healthcare providers who care for them.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said:”At every stage of the pandemic, and since Omicron emerged, the Department of Health has monitored the science to inform the State’s data-driven COVID-19 response. Today, we have reached a critical point in our fight in which the proof of vaccination or masking requirement for businesses, restaurants and other indoor public spaces will expire. As the winter surge recedes, getting vaccinated and boosted remains critical to continue the progress we’ve made, and masking remains key to keeping children in schools safely and keeping everyone safe in public transit and other crowded settings. As we continue to assess the data, the Department is also focused on ensuring the necessary support is there for those suffering from long COVID.”
President & CEO of Northwell Health Mike Dowling said,”I support the Governor’s decision. It is reasonable and data driven. It is now time to begin the pivot to a more normal way of living”.
Business Council of New York State President & CEO Heather Briccetti said,“As protecting public health remains our top concern, we also appreciate the Governor’s efforts to assure that state policies reflect ever-changing COVID levels. Throughout the pandemic, employers have taken the necessary safety precautions and followed state and federal guidelines to ensure the safety of their employees and customers. We hope new policies will encourage New Yorkers to continue to support New York businesses still recovering from the pandemic.”
New York State Association of Counties President Martha Sauerbrey said, “We applaud Governor Kathy Hochul’s decision to lift the statewide mask mandate and allow for local decision-making regarding COVID-19 prevention measures. Local leaders and health officials have the training and public health expertise to ensure the health and safety of the public at large. Any step toward normalcy is a good step for our residents and businesses who have struggled so hard to protect one another for nearly two years. We acknowledge Governor Hochul’s public health measures, including testing, vaccinations and emergency management assistance, during this pandemic and appreciate the steps she took to address this wave without implementing other business restrictions. Now we welcome the opportunity to return communicable disease control to the counties.”
Partnership for New York City President & CEO Kathryn Wylde said, “Governor Hochul’s decision to allow expiration of mask mandates in the workplace will encourage the return of employees to the office and accelerate the city’s economic recovery. It is the right call.”
“The mask mandate has helped keep New York’s working men and women safe and healthy during the most uncertain and volatile moments of the public health crisis,” Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York President Gary LaBarbera said.”The easing of indoor mask mandates for businesses is a positive sign in New York’s recovery, as it’s a direct result of COVID-19 cases dropping across the state and, hopefully, the pandemic itself receding. We’re grateful to Governor Hochul for her thoughtful and steady leadership in navigating New York through these uncertain times.”
New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento said, “In light of the announcement today, we thank the governor for ensuring employers still have responsibilities under state statute, including the Public Employee Safety and Health Act and the New York HERO Act, which remain in effect. These laws establish safety protocols to protect workers and the public. Moving forward, in the absence of the mask mandate, employers must continue to work with their employees to make sure appropriate protections are in place.”
New York State Restaurant Association President & CEO Melissa Fleischut said, “As protecting public health remains our top concern, we also appreciate the Governor’s efforts to assure that state policies reflect ever-changing COVID levels. Throughout the pandemic, employers have taken the necessary safety precautions and followed state and federal guidelines to ensure the safety of their employees and customers. We hope new policies will encourage New Yorkers to continue to support New York businesses still recovering from the pandemic.”
Retail Council of New York State President & CEO Melissa O’Connor said, “Governor Hochul over the past several weeks has prioritized the health and safety of New Yorkers, while recognizing the importance of keeping the economy open during the COVID-19 ‘winter surge’ in New York. Today’s announcement is a positive development for retailers throughout the state and we will continue to collaborate with the Governor on economic recovery efforts.”
Greater New York Hospital Association President Kenneth Raske said, The Greater New York Hospital Association fully supports Governor Hochul’s decision to let the mask mandates expire. Thankfully, hospitalizations due to COVID have dropped dramatically in recent weeks and we are optimistic that this trend will continue, particularly as more and more New Yorkers get vaccinated. Returning to as much normalcy as possible is exactly what is needed. We thank the Governor for her outstanding leadership during this extraordinarily challenging time and, as always, stand ready to assist in any way needed to combat this pandemic. Erie County Medical Center President & CEO Thomas J. Quatroche Jr., PhD said, “Governor Hochul clearly understood that the restaurant industry could not survive another shutdown, and the mask mandate helped ensure that we could remain open for indoor dining even as cases surged. Now as the metrics continue to trend in the right direction and consumer confidence increases, we remain hopeful that better times are ahead and we can continue our recovery from the darkest days of the pandemic. This measur