Category Archives: Coronavirus Pandemic

Biden Administration Details Ways Partnership with Nation’s Mayors Improved Lives, What Build Back Better Could Further Achieve

Since the start of his Administration, President Biden has prioritized local partnerships and has worked closely with mayors across the country who have been instrumental as trusted sources of information about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines, and set up mass vaccination sites. As a result, in less than one year, over 200 million Americans have been vaccinated © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

On the occasion of President Joe Biden’s address to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, January 21, the White House issued a fact sheet detailing some of the ways the Biden-Harris Administration is working with Mayors to deliver for communities across the country, and what passing the Build Back Better agenda could mean:
 
Getting Shots in Arms and Saving Lives
Since the start of his Administration, President Biden has prioritized local partnerships and has worked closely with mayors across the country who have been instrumental as trusted sources of information about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines.
 
Working with local governments, the Administration has shipped over 160 million pieces of personal protective equipment – gloves, gowns, masks – to protect frontline health care workers in cities across the United States. Since first launching surge response teams on July 1st, the Administration has deployed over 3,000 personnel to 39 states and 4 U.S. territories. The Administration also recently worked with several mayors and local jurisdictions to surge federal testing support and federal test sites to several cities.
 
Over 115 mayors across the country joined the White House, HHS, and We Can Do This campaign to launch a Mayors Challenge to Increase COVID-19 Vaccinations. This campaign was instrumental in increasing the adult vaccination rate through mayors sharing best practices and launching innovative efforts to boost vaccinations, including grassroots outreach, mobile and neighborhood vaccine clinics, incentives, prizes, and other efforts.

  • Richmond, VA Mayor Levar Stoney as co-lead of the Mayors Challenge, launched the #HotVaccinatedSummer campaign with the Richmond Health Department focused on taking the vaccine to residents through mobile vaccination units, pop-up vaccine sites at grocery stores, food pantries, apartment complexes, and churches, and neighborhood block parties.
     
  • Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome and New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, mayors of Louisiana’s two largest cities, launched a month-long, inter-city “New Orleans vs Baton Rouge COVID challenge” to motivate citizens to get vaccinated.
     
  • Detroit, MI Mayor Mike Duggan launched an innovative “Good Neighbor Program” where residents received gift cards for driving their neighbors to get vaccinated, as well as a door-to-door vaccination education canvassing effort.
     
  • San Antonio, TX Mayor Ron Nirenberg along with making pop-up vaccine clinics accessible, collaborated with local artists to create murals reminding residents of the importance of getting vaccinated.

Getting People Back to Work
President Biden has grown the economy faster than any first-year administration ever with 6.4 million jobs added, the most in one year on record. The unemployment rate is 3.9% – four years faster than projected because of the American Rescue Plan. The Biden-Harris agenda has provided substantial resources to state and local governments to expand and improve America’s workforce development system so that workers of all kinds from diverse communities will be prepared and successful in good-paying union jobs.
 
The American Rescue Plan (ARP) included $350 billion in state and local fiscal recovery funds that governments can use to assist workers who want and are available to work – including job training, public jobs programs, job fairs, childcare, transportation, hiring bonuses, and subsidized employment efforts). The ARP also invested $3 billion in the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to assist communities in their efforts to build back better from the pandemic, including $1 billion for the Build Back Better Regional Challenge and $500 million for a Good Jobs Challenge that will support sector partnerships that bring employers, unions, non-profits, community colleges, training providers, and local governments together to enhance local training and hiring efforts.

  • Building Bridges to Infrastructure Jobs:
    • Washington, DC is using ARP resources to expand the city’s Infrastructure Academy to ensure a diverse workforce is ready to fill the infrastructure jobs that will be created by the historic bipartisan infrastructure law.
    • Milwaukee, WI has dedicated ARP funds to launch a lead abatement workforce development program and an Earn and Learn program which assists young people entering manufacturing and other high-skill jobs.
    • Phoenix, AZ is using Rescue Plan funds to partner with local community colleges and the private sector on job training programs that not only will re-skill and re-employ individuals for new careers in high demand workforce areas, such as manufacturing, construction, and the region’s emerging semiconductor industry.
       
  • Supporting our Essential Education Workers:
    • Seattle, WA used ARP fiscal recovery funds to provide premium pay for local child care workers, up to $835 per worker who have been there for at least 6 months.
       
  • Bolstering our Health Care Workforce:
    • Chicago, IL is leveraging ARP funds to build a 2,200 public health workforce working as vaccine ambassadors and addressing vaccine resistance.
    • New York City is dedicating ARP funds to bolster their public health workforce through the New York City Public Health Corps program, which will focus on a range of public health needs – from vaccine access, to primary care, to mental health counseling.

Building a Better America
Since President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Biden-Harris Administration has hit the ground running with a focus on fostering strong partnerships and working with mayors to implement the largest long-term investment in America’s infrastructure and competitiveness in nearly a century. The historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will rebuild crumbling road and bridges, replace lead pipes, help provide high-speed internet to every family in America, and produce concrete results that change people’s lives for the better. These results will create good-paying, union jobs, support domestic manufacturing and supply chains, and position the United States to win the 21st century. As the Administration implements the law, it is following through on President Biden’s commitment to ensure investments advance equity and racial justice, reach communities all across the country – including rural communities, communities of color, and disability communities – and strengthen the nation’s resilience to climate change. Since the enactment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Biden Administration has it the ground running. Some of the key actions since the law’s passage include:

  • Understanding the importance of strong partnership with local governments to deliver results on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the White House appointed Mitch Landrieu, former Mayor of New Orleans and former President of the US Conference of Mayors, as Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator.
     
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced $27 billion in funding to replace, repair, and rehabilitate bridges across the country over the next five years, including many locally-owned “off system” bridges.
     
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will invest more than $14 billion of funding for over 500 projects across 52 states and territories. These key projects will strengthen the nation’s supply chain, provide significant new economic opportunities nationwide, and bolster our defenses against climate change.
     
  • USDOT awarded $1 billion in Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grants to invest in 90 major projects across 47 states funding that will be boosted by an additional $7.5 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
     
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at USDOT announced $3 billion for 3,075 airports across the country that can use investments to upgrade critical infrastructure.
     
  • The Vice President announced the Administration’s Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan, which includes action items focused on collaboration with local partners to accelerate the replacement of lead pipes over the next decade. As part of this plan, EPA announced $7.4 billion in funding allocations for states to upgrade America’s aging water infrastructure, sewerage systems, pipes and service lines, and more.
     
  • The Federal Communications Commission launched the Affordable Connectivity Program providing broadband subsidies of up to $30/month for low-income households (up to $75/month for households on Tribal Lands) and up to $100 towards the purchase of a desktop, laptop or tablet computer.
     
  • EPA announced $1 billion in funding to clean up 49 Superfund sites across 24 states to accelerate cleanup at dozens of other sites across the country, stop toxic waste from harming communities, and create good-paying jobs.
     
  • The Department of the Interior released initial guidance for the states interested in applying for funding to cap and plug orphaned oil and gas wells that reduce methane emissions and create jobs, with 26 states expressing interest in a portion of the $4.7 billion in funding for well plugging, remediation and restoration available in infrastructure programs.
     
  • The Department of Energy launched a new Building a Better Grid initiative to accelerate the deployment of new transition lines, and it released a notice of intent to inform the design and implementation of this historic investment.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes billions of dollars in competitive funding available to cities, towns, and municipalities across dozens of new and existing programs. As local governments begin to rebuild and reinvest in their communities, the Biden-Harris Administration stands ready to support local leaders as they combine funding streams, organize around their priorities, and build local support for long overdue infrastructure projects. The White House released a fact sheet highlights 25 already available or soon-to-be-available sources of funding that local governments – particularly cities – can compete or apply for directly. The White House will also be releasing a comprehensive guidebook of all available funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in the coming weeks.
 
Addressing Supply Chain Blockages
As our economy has turned back on from the unprecedented shutdown resulting from the pandemic, our supply chains have been strained. The Administration is working closely with  mayors and local governments across the country to mitigate supply chain blockages and ensure shelves are stocked.

  • The Administration’s port envoy has held weekly meetings with city-owned ports, including the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, to identify ways to reduce congestion and move toward 24/7 operations, which reduces the emissions and traffic in communities.
     
  • The Department of Transportation awarded more than $241 million in discretionary grants to improve ports facilities and address supply chain disruptions in 19 cities, including Houston, TX; Brunswick, GA; Bay St Louis, MS; Tell City, IN; Alpena, MI; Delcambre, LA; Oakland, CA; Portsmouth, VA; Tacoma, WA; and Long Beach, CA.
     
  • The Administration is working to help schools experiencing challenges purchasing and reliably obtaining food for their meal plans. USDA has committed $1.5 billion for schools and states to purchase foods including funding to purchase local foods from historically underserved producers and announced an adjustment in school meal reimbursements that put an estimated $750 million more into school meal programs across the nation this year.

Advancing Local Climate Action
On Day One, President Biden rejoined the Paris Agreement, reestablished U.S. leadership, and renewed the federal government’s partnership with the states, cities, Tribes, and localities that carried forward America’s progress on climate. Since then, President Biden has deployed clean wind and solar energy across the country, jumpstarted an electric vehicle future that will be built in America, advanced environmental justice in underserved communities, and taken aggressive action to make our country more resilient to climate change and extreme weather.
 
Today, President Biden will announce how the Biden-Harris Administration is teaming up with states, cities, labor, and industry to launch the Building Performance Standards Coalition, a first-of-its-kind partnership between 33 state and local governments dedicated to delivering cleaner, healthier, and more affordable buildings. States and cities part of the coalition will design and implement building performance standards that create good paying union jobs, lower the cost of energy bills for consumers, keep residents and workers safe from harmful pollution, and cut emissions from the building sector.
 
The Administration is also empowering local leaders to advance climate solutions across other sectors—for example:

  • The Department of Energy set a new National Community Solar Partnership target of powering 5 million homes by 2025, with on-demand technical assistance available to local governments, and launched the SolarAPP+ tool to help them speed up permitting of rooftop solar installations.
     
  • The Department of Transportation announced $182 million in grants for transit agencies to deploy zero-emission and low-emission transit buses, including awards to the Chicago Transit Authority; Anaheim, CA; Fort Collins, CO; Lawrence, KS; Jackson, MS; Fayetteville, NC; Lincoln, NE; Norman, OK; and more.
     
  • The EPA announced $50 million for environmental justice initiatives using ARP funds, including water infrastructure job training in Baltimore, MD; indoor air quality improvements in Fort Collins, CO; and outreach on asthma and environmental hazards in Hartford, CT. 
     
  • FEMA announced $1 billion for the FY2021 Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program, available for cities and other levels of government to proactively invest in community resilience to hurricanes, wildfires, and other disasters.
     
  • In November 2021, President Biden and 15 bipartisan mayors representing communities across the country participated in COP26, where the President announced bold plans to reduce methane emissions, create clean energy jobs, and build back better with infrastructure initiatives that advance prosperity and combat the climate crisis.

Addressing Gun Violence and Crime
During the President’s first year in office, the Biden-Harris Administration has partnered with mayors across the country on actions to reduce gun violence and has provided historic levels of funding for community-oriented policing and expanding community violence interventions (CVI) – neighborhood-based programs proven to combat gun violence. The Administration has made historic levels of funding from the American Rescue Plan – including $350 billion in state and local funding – available to state and local governments for law enforcement purposes to advance community policing strategies and community violence interventions.

  • Working with 16-jurisdictions, the White House launched the Community Violence Intervention Collaborative, a cohort of mayors, law enforcement, CVI experts and philanthropic organizations committed to using ARP funding to increase investment in their community violence intervention infrastructure and share best practices. 
     
  • Cities including Milwaukee, WI; Albuquerque, NM; Syracuse, NY; and Mobile, AL responded to the President’s call by committing and deploying ARP funds for advancing community-oriented policing.
  • Mayors from cities across the country including Seattle, WA; Buffalo, NY; and Atlanta, GA have committed to deploy ARP fund for community violence interventions following a memo from Senior White House advisors on how state and local officials can implement ARP funding into CVI work.
     
  • Cities across the country including St. Louis, MO and Tucson, AZ committed to investing ARP funding in public safety strategies such as summer jobs for young adults and substance abuse and mental health services.

Prevent Housing Instability and Homelessness
During the President’s first year in office, the Biden-Harris Administration partnered with mayors across the country to keep Americans housed. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) included over $21 billion for the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program. These funds, together with $25 billion signed into law under the previous Administration but implemented under this Administration, enabled households to catch up on rent and avoid evictions. State and local grantees obligated over $25 billion in ERA in 2021, and these funds contributed to a historically low eviction filing rate. Also included within ARP were $5 billion in supplemental funding for HOME, which enables state and local governments to create and preserve affordable housing, and $5 billion in emergency housing vouchers to help people experiencing and at risk of homelessness secure housing.

  • In June, 46 cities joined the White House to create eviction prevention action plans as part of a first-of-its-kind summit. More than 100 eviction diversion programs were created or expanded as part of this partnership with the White House and local leaders.
     
  • Mayors from Louisville, Milwaukee, San Antonio, and Boston shared best practices in subsequent White House events including strategies to prevent evictions and distribute rental assistance to renters and landlords in need.
     
  • Dozens of mayors have signed onto House America, a federal initiative aimed at maximizing the ARP resources to address homelessness. The goal of this initiative is to cumulatively re-house 100,000 households experiencing homelessness and add 20,000 new units of affordable housing into the development pipeline by the end of 2022.

Building an Orderly, Fair, and Humane Immigration System
The Biden-Harris Administration is working to build a humane, orderly, and fair 21st century immigration system at the border and beyond. One that invests in smart technology and infrastructure at the border, that prioritizes our resources and values immigrants living in our country and contributing to our communities for generations, and that once again welcomes refugees and is a beacon of light for those seeking safe haven.
 
Since day one, the Biden-Harris Administration took steps to undo the wrongdoings of the previous Administration, including getting rid of the Muslim ban, taking steps to protect DACA recipients, and restoring our asylum system. On day one, President Biden also sent his immigration bill to Congress – The U.S. Citizenship Act – which laid out the components needed to build an updated immigration system that reflects our values and responds to our hemisphere’s current needs.
 
Working with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State and non-profit organizations in Mexico and the United States, the Administration assisted 13,000 people in the wind down of the Migrant Protection Protocol to fight their cases in the United States. The Administration also designated Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haiti, Venezuela, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, and Burma, and expanded to El Salvador and Honduras.
 
The President tasked Vice President Harris with leading efforts to address the root causes of migration from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. The Vice President announced $310 million in urgent humanitarian relief in April 2021, in addition to the President’s FY22 budget request for $861 million for Central America. The Vice President also secured $1.2 billion from the private sector to create job programs and invest in the economic stability and prosperity for our partner countries. In addition to the work the Vice President is leading, the Administration is working with countries in South America and leaders in the hemisphere to address migration as a regional issue that necessitates regional leadership and a regional response.
 
The Administration remains committed to immigration reform, to restoring asylum, and to working with partners to ensure the safety, security, and dignity of immigrants in the region:

  • Engaged mayors and cities to amplify the broad sweeping impact President Biden’s U.S. Citizenship Act would have on all 11 million undocumented immigrants, including farm workers and individuals with Temporary Protected Status.
  • Partnered with cities including San Diego, Long Beach, Pomona, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio to stand up Emergency Influx Sites to provide temporary shelter and care for thousands of unaccompanied children.
     
  • Awarded $110 million in supplemental humanitarian funding to the National Board for Emergency Food and Shelter Program eligible to cities and services providers providing humanitarian assistance to migrants at the southern border.
     
  • Regularly engaged bipartisan border mayors to discuss and coordinate rebuilding America’s border management and asylum systems that were previously gutted by the prior administration. Additionally, engaged local elected leaders in the Rio Grande Valley, San Diego, and El Centro border sectors to protect border communities from the physical dangers resulting from the previous administration’s approach to border wall construction.

Welcoming Refugees and Resettlement Efforts
The Biden-Harris Administration has taken a whole-of-America approach to safely, securely, and effectively welcome more than 76,000 Afghan allies to the United States through the Operation Allies Welcome.
 
In close coordination with Departments and Agencies across the Federal government, the Administration has worked with state and local officials; refugee resettlement organizations; veterans; faith, private sector, and non-profit leaders to ensure Afghans are set up for success in their new communities. The White House Operation Allies Welcome team provided briefings to USCM and visited resettlement sites in six states to engage with local officials and stakeholders on the frontlines of welcoming our Afghan allies. In his capacity as OAW Coordinator, Jack Markell attended the 2021 USCM Summer Meeting in Dayton, Ohio to brief mayors on their important role in the resettlement effort.

  • USCM Past President Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin led the effort for USCM’s resolution in support of Afghan resettlement and welcomed briefings from senior Administration officials to keep mayors updated on resettlement efforts
     
  • Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner worked with local resettlement agencies to raise more than $8.5 million dollars for the Houston Afghan Resettlement Fund (HARF) to help the local resettlement agencies provide additional services for Afghan evacuees
     
  • Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt collaborated with the local resettlement agency to identify additional funding stream to for affordable housing for Afghan evacuees
     
  • Lansing Mayor Andy Schor worked with the local school district to ensure a warm welcome to arriving Afghans students and families.
     

Sacramento Mayor Darryl Steinberg coordinated with state, county, and local leaders to create a new coalition called the American Network of Services for Afghanistan Refugees (ANSAR) to assist in meeting the needs of Afghan families.

In addition to President Biden, ten members of the President’s Cabinet spoke at the USCM Winter Meeting, including Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and EPA Administrator Regan. Senior Administration officials including ARP Coordinator Gene Sperling, Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu, and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Julie Rodriguez will also speak at the event.

President Biden Shows Benefits of Federal-Local Government Partnership in Address to US Conference of Mayors

President Joe Biden addresses 200 mayors at the US Conference of Mayors: “You understand the cost if we fail to act.  We need the voice of mayors telling the stories of what your communities need, and the impact we’re making on people’s lives or not making.  If we can get this done — I believe this with every fiber of my being: If we can get this done, there’s no limit what Americans can achieve.  So, let’s continue to give working families a fighting chance.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via msnbc.

On January 21, President Biden addressed over 200 bipartisan mayors during their annual U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) Winter Meeting. This was the President’s first time addressing the entire USCM since taking office. At this year’s convening, the President highlighted the strong partnership between his Administration and mayors during the past year to tackle unprecedented crises, rebuild the economy, and deliver results for working families. The President also discussed ways to further partner with cities on implementing the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the importance of passing the Build Back Better Act. 

Here is an edited transcript of President Biden’s remarks:

Mayors carry the quality of the people’s lives on your shoulders.

Everything you do every day affects their lives more than almost anything anybody else does.  And you can make or break a person’s day.  “Will the bus get me home on time?”  It sounds silly but, “Will the garbage get be picked up?”  “Will I be safe walking in the park?”

These are the bigger questions: “Can I afford to give my family a good life?”  “Will my kids have a chance to get a good job someday?”  “How will I rebuild from the fire or the storm?”

You know, all of these questions, they’re not partisan, but they’re practical.  People they look to are you…

That’s why, when I put together my Cabinet, I called on former mayors –Tom Vilsack was a governor; he was also a mayor.  Marcia Fudge, a mayor. Marty Walsh a mayor in Boston.  Pete Buttigieg was a mayor.  And I picked Mitch Landrieu to oversee the implementation of the infrastructure law, which is over a $1.2 trillion, because he knows how mayors get things done. (Applause.) .. Because mayors know the measure of success isn’t scoring partisan points, it’s did you fix the problem…

 
The infrastructure law is a perfect example of what we can achieve when we tackle problems the way mayors do.  Everybody in America knows we’ve fallen behind on infrastructure.  So we came together — Democrats and Republicans — and did something about it…

And, by the way, I want to thank you all.  More than 360 of you signed a letter that was sent to me when we were trying to get this legislation passed.  Three hundred and sixty of you.  You lobbied Congress to get it done, and it’s the reason it got done…  

And now, after years of dead-ends and broken promises, not only has “Infrastructure Week” finally arrived — (applause) — but we can literally, because of you, look forward to an “Infrastructure Decade.”…

We’ve announced billions of dollars for highways, ports, airports, water and sewage systems, high-speed Internet; funding to clean up the rivers in Ohio, chemical plants and sites in Florida, polluted lakes in Michigan and dozens of other sites; a new program to cap and plug orphaned oil and gas wells spewing methane into the air, cleaning up the communities that, in fact, they’re affecting, while [creating] good-paying jobs…

A new initiative to bolster our energy grid with stronger transmission lines and towers to keep the power flowing more reliably and, consequentially, more secure energy supply…

You know, more forest, homes, buildings, and businesses have been burned to the ground than make up — if you’re taking the square miles — than the entire state of New Jersey, from New York all the way down to Cape Henlopen.  That’s how much has burned to the ground.  A lot of it because of the lack of resilience in those towers that get blown over and the wires snap…


Last week, we rolled out a historic investments in our nation’s bridges, like the one I visited in New Hampshire, where restrictions forced school buses and fire trucks to go 10 miles out of their way just to get across a small river…

We’re going to upgrade thousands of bridges, creating good-paying jobs, cutting commute times, ensuring that as we build back, no community gets left behind.

Folks, that mayor’s view of problem-solving is exactly what we brought to the American Rescue Plan.  It’s designed so that you’d be able to have the resources and the flexibility to take both the short-term and long-term challenges created by this pandemic. A major part of the Rescue Plan was the $350 billion we allocated to state and local budgets.  And again, because of you, over $100 billion of that went directly to cities and counties, not through anybody.  (Applause.)  A hundred billion.

It was not easy to get done, but it was important to get done because you know it’s needed.  You didn’t have to go through your state legislature — or your governor – to get the money.

Today, communities are still putting those funds to work — keeping people on the job, connecting people to better jobs…

Use your funds to cover childcare costs or temporary paid leave to help certain workers dealing with Omicron; to build pathways to better jobs through union-based apprenticeships and on-the-job training; to give people in every ZIP code a chance to deal for themselves and deal them into this booming economy.

That also means building more affordable housing so people can have safe places closer to their jobs.

Funding proven programs to help fight violent crime.  We shouldn’t be cutting funding for police departments.  I proposed increasing funding… 


The truth is we have an incredible opportunity ahead of us this year.  We still have a lot of work to do to defeat COVID, to bring down costs for families.

But just look at what we’ve accomplished together so far, even in the face of those headwinds.

In 2021, more jobs are created in America than ever in a single year in American history.  More jobs — over 6 million.  The unemployment rate dropped more than any year in American history.  (Applause.)   

Income — incomes for folks working frontline jobs in service industries rose more than any year in history — the folks at the bottom of the economic rung.

We lowered child poverty in this country by nearly 40 percent — more than any time in U.S. history.  (Applause.)  

You all know this: Business applications grew by nearly 30 percent last year — more than any year in history.  If they’re saying everything is so bad, why are people fighting to open businesses?

More Americans gained health insurance than any year in history.

These are facts. 

To confront the climate crisis, we deployed more solar wind, batteries, and electric vehicles than ever, ever before.

And we’re teaming up with mayors, labor, and industry to save families and businesses money by improving energy efficiency in our buildings.

And in the battle against the deadly virus, we’ve gone from putting 2 million shots — vaccinations – in people’s arms to 210 million Americans fully vaccinated. (Applause.)

And you mayors have been critical partners…

And we still face tremendous challenges, though.  But together, we’ve proven that we can get big things done in this country.

Last year, with your help, we laid the groundwork.  This year, we have to build it.  The biggest weapon in our arsenal is the Build Back Better Act. Nothing is going to do more to ease pressure on families…

Every mayor knows if people can’t find and afford childcare, they can’t work.  (Applause.)  Some of your cities, it’s 14-, 15,000 bucks a year for childcare.  That’s why we have nearly 1.2 million extremely qualified women who haven’t been able to return to the workforce.

We can cut the cost of childcare in half and fix that problem.

Health insurance: We can reduce the cost for families — and we’ve done for $600 per year.

On climate: Extreme weather disasters cost communities $145 billion last year.  That’s how much we spent because of weather-related crises.  $145 billion.  By investing in resilience and clean energy technology, we can do something about that.

To give relief to families, in the American Rescue Plan we had the Childcare Tax Credit.  That did reduce child poverty by 40 percent.  There’s no reason it shouldn’t continue.  (Applause.)

And on education — on education: Today, about half of the three- and four-year-olds are enrolled in early childhood education…

We can do this and more on healthcare, nutrition, and a host of other issues.

And, folks, here’s the point: We can do it without increasing inflation or the deficit.

Seventeen Nobel laureates in economics wrote a letter to me recently, affirming that this bill would reduce inflationary pressures on the economy, not increase — reduce it.  (Applause.)

And by the way — by the way, it’s entirely paid for.  (Applause.)  Every single penny.  (Applause.)  And not a single person making less than $400,000 a year will pay a single additional penny in federal taxes.  Not a single penny.  (Applause.)

And, by the way, I’m a capitalist.  I’m not a socialist.  If you can make $1 billion or $10 million, good for you.  Just begin to pay your fair share.  Pay a little bit.  (Applause.)

We can pay for all this by just making sure that the wealthy — making sure that the wealthy and the biggest corporations pay their fair share…

Look, we can tackle all these challenges just like we did with the Rescue Plan, the infrastructure law, and the fight against COVID, but we can’t do it without you… 

You understand the cost if we fail to act.  We need the voice of mayors telling the stories of what your communities need, and the impact we’re making on people’s lives or not making.  If we can get this done — I believe this with every fiber of my being: If we can get this done, there’s no limit what Americans can achieve.  So, let’s continue to give working families a fighting chance. 

Biden Administration to Begin Distributing At-Home, Rapid COVID-19 Tests to Americans for Free

The Biden Administration is buying one billion tests to give to Americans for free; online ordering of 500 million tests begins on January 19th. This builds on significant actions by the Administration to expand testing capacity and increase access to free testing © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Biden Administration is Buying One Billion Tests to Give to Americans for Free; Online Ordering of a Half-Billion Tests Begins on January 19th; Builds on Significant Actions to Expand Testing Capacity and Increase Access to Free Testing

Testing is an important tool to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Public health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that Americans use at-home tests if they begin to have symptoms, at least five days after coming in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, or are gathering indoors with a group of people who are at risk of severe disease or unvaccinated.
 
To help ensure Americans have tests on hand if a need arises, the Biden Administration is purchasing one billion at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests to give to Americans for free. A half-billion tests will be available for order on January 19th and will be mailed directly to American households.
 
There will be free tests available for every household, and to promote broad access, the initial program will allow four free tests to be requested per residential address. Starting January 19th, Americans will be able to order their tests online at COVIDTests.gov, and tests will typically ship within 7-12 days of ordering.
 
To ensure equity and access for all Americans, the Administration will also launch a call line to help those unable to access the website to place orders, and work with national and local community-based organizations to support the nation’s hardest-hit and highest-risk communities in requesting tests.
 
In addition to this new program, there are many other options for Americans to get tested. There are now over 20,000 free testing sites across the nation, including four times as many pharmacies participating in the federal pharmacy free testing program as there were in January 2021, as well as federal surge free testing sites, with more free testing sites opening each week. Millions of free, at-home COVID-19 tests have been delivered to thousands of community health centers and rural health clinics to distribute to their patients, with more delivered each week. In addition, the Administration provided schools $10 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to get tests to K-12 school districts. And, the Administration invested nearly $6 billion in ARP funding to cover free testing for uninsured individuals, and support testing in correctional facilities, shelters for people experiencing homelessness, and mental health facilities.
 
Just this week, the Administration also announced that starting January 15th, private health insurance companies will be required to cover at-home COVID-19 tests for free—and made an additional 10 million COVID-19 tests available to schools nationwide, each month.
 
Since January 2021, the Administration has taken significant action to dramatically increase the nation’s overall COVID-19 testing supply, the number of tests authorized for use in the U.S., and the number of places where Americans can get a test, while lowering costs for consumers and increasing access to free tests.
 
This comprehensive approach has produced important results: Today, there are nine at-home, rapid tests on the market in the U.S.—up from zero when the President took office. In December, there were more than 300 million at-home, rapid tests available in the U.S. market, up from 24 million in August—a more than 10-fold rise. This month, the number of at-home, rapid tests available to the U.S. market will rise to 375 million—in addition to the free tests available through COVIDTests.gov.
 
Distributing At-Home, Rapid COVID-19 Tests to American Homes for Free: This program will ensure that Americans have at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests available in the weeks and months ahead—in addition to the number of other ways they can get tested. The Administration is quickly completing a contracting process for the unprecedented purchase of one billion at-home, rapid tests to distribute as part of this program. The Department of Defense, in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services, has already awarded several of the contracts that will result from this process—with over 420 million tests already under contract. Given the incredible volume of tests being procured and the diversity of manufacturers, additional contracts will continue to be awarded over the coming weeks.

  • Ordering Process: Starting on January 19th, Americans will be able to order a test online at COVIDTests.gov. To ensure broad access, the program will limit the number of tests sent to each residential address to four tests. Tests will usually ship within 7-12 days of ordering.
     
  • Distribution and Delivery Process: The Administration will partner with the United States Postal Service to package and deliver tests to Americans that want them. All orders in the continental United States will be sent through First Class Package Service, with shipments to Alaska, Hawaii, and the U.S. Territories and APO/FPO/DPO addresses sent through Priority Mail. 
     
  • Ensuring Equity and Reaching Hardest-Hit Communities: The Administration is taking a number of steps to ensure this program reaches our hardest-hit and highest-risk communities. This includes prioritizing processing orders to households experiencing the highest social vulnerability and in communities that have experienced a disproportionate share of COVID-19 cases and deaths, particularly during this Omicron surge; launching a free call line, so that Americans who have difficulty accessing the internet or need additional support can phone-in orders for their tests; and, working with national and local organizations with deep experience serving communities of color, people living with disabilities, and other high-risk communities to serve as navigators, raise awareness about the program, and help people submit requests.

The Biden Administration continues acting aggressively to further increase equitable access to free COVID-19 testing for all Americans, as testing needs arise. This includes:

  • Requiring Health Insurers to Cover the Cost of At-Home COVID-19 Tests Starting January 15thOn Monday, the Administration announced that, starting January 15th, private insurance companies will be required to cover at-home COVID-19 tests. This means consumers with private health insurance coverage will be able to get these tests for free. Insurance companies and health plans are required to cover eight free at-home tests per covered individual per month. That means a family of four, all on the same plan, would be able to get 32 of these tests covered by their health plan per month. As part of the requirement, the Administration is strongly incentivizing plans and insurers to allow people to get these tests directly through preferred pharmacies or retailers with no out-of-pocket costs, with the plan or insurer covering the cost upfront, eliminating the need for people to submit reimbursement claims.
     
  • Making 10 Million More Tests Available to Schools Nationwide: On Wednesday, the Administration took new actions to increase access to COVID-19 testing in schools. This includes increasing the number of COVID-19 tests available to schools by 10 million per month to help schools safely remain open and implement screening testing and test-to-stay programs—which will allow schools to double the volume of testing they were performing in November 2021—and supporting free testing access for students, school staff, and families through federal testing sites. These actions double down on the Administration’s commitment to keeping all schools safely open for full-time in-person learning, and build on the historic investments the Administration has already made to expand school testing, including providing states $10 billion in American Rescue Plan funding to support COVID-19 screening testing for teachers, staff, and students and $130 billion in American Rescue Plan funding that schools can use on COVID-19 testing. In addition to these resources, at the President’s direction, FEMA has been providing states, Tribes, and territories 100 percent federal reimbursement to support COVID-19 testing, including at schools. There was no federal support for testing in schools prior to the start of the Administration.
     
  • Standing Up New Federal Surge Free Testing Sites: To help states and communities that need additional testing capacity as they battle Omicron, the Administration has rapidly stood up many new, federal free testing sites across the nation over the past several weeks. Already, there are 18 accessible sites operating in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Washington D.C.—with approximately 20 additional sites opening soon. These new federal sites have been effective in ensuring our hardest-hit and high-risk communities have equitable access to testing, with initial data showing that over three in four tests at the New York and New Jersey sites—sites that have been open the longest—have been administered to people of color.

These actions build on the significant steps the Administration has taken since Day One on testing to:

  • Increase Overall Testing Supply in the U.S.: Starting last February, the Administration has used the Defense Production Act, industrial mobilization and advance purchase commitments to ramp up supply of testing, including at-home, rapid tests. This includes $3 billion in advance purchase commitments this Fall, which allowed domestic testing manufacturers to increase production, add factory lines, increase staffing, and move up manufacturing timelines. As a result, the U.S. went from 24 million at-home, rapid tests on the market in August, to 46 million in October, to 100 million in November, to over 300 million in December, to 375 million in January. This is on top of the work the Administration has done to increase capacity for lab-based COVID-19 testing; the U.S. is now conducting more lab-based tests per capita than many peer countries, including Germany, Canada, and Japan.
     
  • Increase the Number of Tests Authorized in the U.S.: In March, to bring more at-home, rapid tests to market, the Administration worked to create a new, streamlined pathway for manufacturers to more quickly receive authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their tests. This accelerated pathway has been successfully used by at least six manufacturers this year. In addition, using resources from the American Rescue Plan, the Administration launched a new, innovative partnership between NIH and FDA last October to help manufacturers further accelerate authorization. The first two tests to use this pathway were authorized in December—weeks, if not months, ahead of schedule. These actions have paid off: When the President took office, there were zero at-home, rapid tests on the market. Today, there are nine on the market. This gives consumers more options and increases competition to lower prices.
     
  • Increase the Number of Places to Get Tested in the U.S.: Since January 2021, the Administration has more than quadrupled the number of pharmacies participating in the federal program for in-store testing—from 2,500 to over 10,000. At the President’s direction, FEMA has provided states, Tribes, and territories with 100 percent reimbursement for a range of testing costs, including state-run testing sites, since January 2021. Overall, there are now over 20,000 federally-supported free testing sites nationwide, with more pharmacies joining the federal free testing program each week. In addition, the Administration has stood up new federal free surge testing sites in areas of need, with more opening each week.
     
  • Increase Access to Free Testing in the U.S.: From the start, the Administration has taken significant action to reduce the cost of testing and increase access to free testing. Last February, the Administration required insurers to cover provider-ordered testing for free, including for asymptomatic individuals. The Administration also acted to ensure Medicaid programs cover all COVID-19 testing, and invested nearly $5 billion to cover testing costs for uninsured individuals—resulting in over 47 million tests covered. In addition to expanding the number of free testing sites to over 20,000 nationwide, the Administration delivers 2.5 million tests to long-term care facilities each week, and also launched a program to distribute 50 million free at-home tests to thousands of locations, including community health centers and rural health clinics that serve our hardest-hit and highest-risk communities. The announcements made today and earlier this week build on this work and will further ensure all Americans have equitable access to free testing.

Two New Over-the-Counter At-Home COVID-19 Tests Brought to US Market Quickly by Biden Administration

FDA Authorizes Roche and Siemens At-Home Tests, Which Went Through New Biden Administration Accelerated Review Program; Will Bring Tens of Millions of New Tests Per Month to the U.S.

Tests Authorized in Just Two Months Since Joint FDA-NIH Program Accelerating Test Developers Through Regulatory Process Was Announced

President Joe Biden discusses steps administration is taking to increase testing as a winter surge in coronavirus pandemic is underway © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via c-span.org

The Biden-Harris Administration has brought two new over-the-counter, at-home COVID-19 tests to the U.S. market. The tests, one manufactured by SD Biosensor and distributed by Roche and the other manufactured by Siemens, have received emergency use authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after being evaluated through the Administration’s new accelerated pathway to support FDA review of tests with potential for large-scale manufacturing that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced just two months ago.

These quick authorizations are thanks to collaboration between the FDA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Technology (RADx) program. Combined, it is estimated the companies can produce tens of millions of tests per month for use in the U.S.

“Increasing Americans’ access to easy-to-use, reliable COVID tests is a top priority for the Biden Administration, and we are using all resources at our disposal to make more tests available and ramp up supply,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Adding two new authorized tests will give Americans more options for testing at home, which helps keep people safe and provides peace of mind.”

In late October, HHS announced the Administration would invest $70 million from the American Rescue Plan to help bring more high-quality, at-home tests onto the market in the U.S. in coordination with FDA. This new Independent Test Assessment Program (ITAP) is helping identify manufacturers of high-quality tests and encouraging them to bring those tests to the U.S. market, increasing options for people and overall supply and potentially lowering costs.

In this new program, NIH’s RADx Tech network of experts from government, academia, and industry work together with FDA, CDC and other HHS specialists to assess and conduct studies on over-the-counter tests. This coordinated effort allows companies to compile proper data, work towards the right benchmarks for performance, and support other needs that will help ensure they are providing the best submissions possible for FDA’s regulatory review. The goal is to accelerate the availability of more high-quality, accurate and reliable over-the-counter tests to the public as quickly as possible. The tests by Roche and Siemens are the first to gain FDA authorization through this program.

“This program is incredibly beneficial to increasing access to rapid tests by quickly and consistently gathering the critical data companies need to request EUA and subsequently enter the U.S. market once authorized,” said Jeff Shuren, M.D., J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “Knowing these tests have been independently assessed by NIH allows the FDA to act quickly on well-performed studies and trustworthy data that will lead to the availability of additional accurate and reliable tests at this critical time.”

“By rapidly conducting the precise studies recommended by the FDA, this program is shaving weeks to months off the typical EUA timeline,” said Bruce J. Tromberg, Ph.D., director of the NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) and RADx program lead.

This is part of the Biden Administration’s commitment to increasing access to COVID-19 testing. Last week, President Biden announced new actions to ensure Americans have access to free testing, including convenient, at-home tests. He committed to purchase half a billion at-home tests to be provided to Americans for free this winter, starting in January, and to stand up new federal testing sites across the country. Additionally, there are now 20,000 free testing sites across the U.S., four times as many at-home tests available to Americans than were available this summer, and free at-home tests are already being made available at key community sites, such as community health centers and rural clinics.

DoD Awards $136.7 Million Contract to MilliporeSigma to Establish Domestic Production Capacity of Critical Material Used in COVID-19 Point-of-Care Tests

Also, on Dec. 29, 2021, the Department of Defense (DoD), on behalf of and in coordination with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, awarded a $136.7 million contract to MilliporeSigma to establish nitrocellulose membrane production capacity in the United States.

Nitrocellulose membrane is a critical material used in manufacturing SARS-CoV-2 rapid point-of-care tests. This industrial base expansion effort will allow MilliporeSigma to establish a nitrocellulose manufacturing capability in its Sheboygan, Wisconsin facility to support more than 83.3 million tests per month for COVID-19 testing and future needs.

The DoD’s Defense Assisted Acquisition Cell (DA2) led this effort in coordination with the Department of the Air Force’s Acquisition COVID-19 Task Force (DAF ACT). This effort was funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to support domestic industrial base expansion for critical medical resources.

President Biden Announces New Actions to Protect Americans and Help Communities and Hospitals Battle Omicron

Among the new actions against the expected surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the highly transmissible, infectious Omicron variant President Biden is taking include expanding access to vaccinations and testing, spending $3 billion to make 500 million home tests available free, delivered through the mail, and stepping up plans to assist hospitals with personnel and equipment as needed. Getting vaccinated and boosted remains the best defense against hospitalization and death © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

President Joe Biden is announcing new actions against the expected surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the highly transmissible, infectious Omicron variant. He is spending $3 billion to make 500 million home tests available free, delivered through the mail, opening up new testing and vaccination sites (already 90,000 locations), and stepping up plans to assist hospitals with personnel and equipment as needed. Here’s is what President Biden will announce in a speech today:

Today, President Biden will announce new actions to protect Americans and help communities and hospitals battle Omicron, building on the robust plan he announced earlier this month to get people maximum protection ahead of the winter and prepare for rising cases driven by the new variant.
 
We know how to protect people from severe illness, we have the tools needed to do it, and thanks to the President’s Winter Plan, we are ready: 73% of adult Americans are fully vaccinated—up from less than 1 percent before the President took office—and we are getting about 1 million booster shots in arms each day. Vaccines are free and readily available at 90,000 convenient locations. There is clear guidance on masking and other measures that help slow the spread of COVID-19. And, federal emergency medical teams are ready to respond to surges nationwide.
 
Our vaccines are the most powerful tools we have—they work to protect people from serious illness and death, and boosters provide people optimal protection. While cases among vaccinated individuals will likely increase due to the more transmissible Omicron, evidence to date is that their cases will most likely be mild. In contrast, unvaccinated individuals are at high risk of getting COVID-19, getting severely ill, and even dying. Today’s actions will mitigate the impact unvaccinated individuals have on our health care system, while increasing access to free testing and getting more shots in arms to keep people safe and our schools and economy open.
 
Today, President Biden will announce the following actions:
 
Increased Support for Hospitals: The President will take several steps to ensure states and health systems across the country have the personnel, beds, and supplies they need as they battle rising Omicron hospitalizations, mostly among the unvaccinated. Today’s steps build on the President’s Winter Plan, which made over 60 Winter COVID-19 emergency response team deployments available to states, and the COVID-19 Surge Response Teams the Administration mobilized over the summer and fall to fight the Delta surge.
 
Deploying Additional Medical Personnel

  • Mobilizing an Additional 1,000 Troops to Deploy to COVID-Burdened Hospitals: The President is directing Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to ready an additional 1,000 service members—military doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other medical personnel—to deploy to hospitals during January and February, as needed.
     
  • Deploying Federal Medical Personnel Available to States Immediately: The President is announcing that six emergency response teams—with more than 100 clinical personnel and paramedics—are deploying to six states now: Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire and Vermont. This is on top of the 300 federal medical personnel that we have deployed since we learned about Omicron.

 
Expanding Hospital Capacity 

  • Activating FEMA Response Teams to Help States and Hospitals Add Capacity Now: The President is directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to activate additional staffing and capacity for the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) and FEMA regions, and to mobilize planning teams to work with every state and territory to assess hospital needs ahead of winter surges, and to start expanding hospital bed capacity now—with the federal government paying for all of it. The Administration is also pre-positioning the federal government’s own supplies and resources to help make more beds available.
     
  • Providing Ongoing Support to States to Help Hospitals Create and License More Beds: FEMA has already provided states hundreds of millions of dollars to expand hospital capacity. This includes two new medical surge facilities in Shreveport, Louisiana, added beds for COVID-19 patients in Baltimore, Maryland, and expanded intensive care units and emergency departments in Fresno, California.
     
  • Deploying Hundreds of Ambulances and Emergency Medical Teams to Transport Patients to Open Beds: To get ahead of surges, FEMA is ready to deploy hundreds of ambulances and emergency medical teams so that if one hospital fills up, they can transport patients to open beds in other facilities. Just this week, 30 paramedics are heading to New Hampshire, 30 to Vermont, and 20 to Arizona, and 30 ambulances are headed to New York and 8 to Maine. The Administration is also continuing to provide 100 percent federal reimbursement to states for all COVID-19 emergency response costs.

 
Providing Critical Supplies

  • Pre-Positioning Critical Supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile: Thanks 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 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 United States so that we can send them to states that need them immediately.
     
  • Deploying Ventilators to States: HHS continues to expedite the deployment of ventilators to states. Just last week, the Administration sent 330 ventilators to states like Indiana, Michigan, Maine, and New Hampshire, with more planned deliveries on the way to states that are facing strains and need them.

 
Robust Access to Free Testing: The President will announce new actions to ensure Americans have access to free testing, including convenient, at-home tests. Since January 2021, the Administration has already taken significant actions to increase testing. As a result, there are now 20,000 free testing sites across the U.S., four times as many at-home tests available to Americans than were available this summer, and at-home tests being made available at key community sites, such as community health centers and rural clinics. Today’s steps build on this progress and further increase the availability of free and convenient testing options.

  • Standing up New Federal Testing Sites: Today, the President is announcing that new federal testing sites will be stood up around the country, helping states that need additional testing capacity. The first will be stood up in New York City this week.
     
  • Distributing Free, Rapid Tests to Americans: Today, the President is announcing his Administration will purchase a half-billion at-home, rapid tests this winter to be distributed for free to Americans who want them, with the initial delivery starting in January 2022. The Administration will stand up a website where Americans can go to get at-home tests delivered to their home—for free.
     
  • Utilizing the Defense Production Act to Further Accelerate Production: The President is pledging to continue using the Defense Production Act (DPA) and other authorities to make sure the U.S. is producing as many tests as quickly as possible. Through the President’s aggressive actions this summer, including use of the DPA, the Administration has already quadrupled the monthly supply of at-home, rapid tests in the U.S. The Administration will continue to use the DPA to accelerate production; just in the last week, the Administration used DPA to ensure that two testing manufacturers have the raw materials and equipment they need to produce as many tests as they can—enabling one company to double its production of lab-based tests, and another to rapidly to scale up production of new over-the-counter and point-of-care tests.

 
Expanding Capacity to Get Shots in Arms: President Biden will announce additional steps to ensure people can get vaccinated and boosted and get their kids vaccinated easily this winter. Over the fall, the Administration has added 10,000 more vaccination sites across the country where Americans can get their shots. There are now 90,000 convenient locations nationwide, with many sites offering walk-in appointments and vaccinations for the whole family.

  • Standing Up New Pop-Up Vaccination Clinics: The President will announce that FEMA is standing up new pop-up vaccination clinics across the country. This includes a new mobile unit in Washington, and four new mobile units across New Mexico that are opening today. FEMA will help stand up additional sites in areas of high demand over the coming weeks.
     
  • Deploying Additional Vaccinators: To further increase capacity, the Biden Administration is deploying hundreds of federal vaccinators across 12 states, Tribes and territories. Together, these vaccinators will help enable thousands of additional appointments over the next few weeks.
     
  • Allowing Flexibility to Surge Pharmacy Teams: In response to strong demand for vaccinations in communities across the country, the Administration will cut red tape to help surge pharmacy teams to places where there is higher demand. To do so, HHS will issue an amendment to the PREP Act Declaration allowing flexibility for pharmacists and pharmacy interns to administer a wider set of vaccinations across state lines.
     
  • Continuing to Scale Pharmacy Capacity: Nationwide, pharmacies are adding appointments and capacity across their network. Pharmacy partners have taken steps to surge capacity, including by hiring tens of additional clinical and operational staff nationwide. And, pharmacies are opening up hundreds of new vaccination sites for kids in January.

Biden Announces New Actions to Protect Americans Against Delta, Omicron Variants as Nation Battles COVID-19 this Winter

New Actions Aim to Get Americans Boosted for Even Greater Protection Against Delta, Omicron Variants, Keep Schools and Businesses Open, Help Quickly Respond to Surges if Needed During the Colder Months

Best protection against COVID-19 variants Delta and Omicron: get fully vaccinated (three shots). The Biden Administration is accelerating availability of vaccinations, as well as making home test kits available, and increasing vaccination supply globally, among other steps © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Here are excerpts from President Biden’s op-ed, My winter plan fights COVID with testing and vaccines and without lockdowns in USA Today (Dec. 2, 2021):
 
I know that Americans are exhausted from COVID-19 and want to know when it will end, and the new variant is adding to that unease. I get it.

I pledged to always be straight with the American people and tell you the truth. Here’s the truth about the new omicron variant: While it is a cause for concern, it is not a cause for panic. Experts say that COVID-19 cases will continue to rise in the weeks ahead this winter, and that we will see more omicron cases here in the United States in the days, weeks and months ahead. Our best scientists and doctors are on the case and gathering data, but early indications are that our vaccines will provide a measure of protection against this strain. We have the tools to protect ourselves and battle this virus, and I’m laying out a plan to do just that this winter.

We are going to fight COVID-19 not with shutdowns or lockdowns – but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more. We will beat it back with science and speed, not chaos and confusion – just as we did in the spring and again with the more powerful delta variant in the summer and fall.

There are six key actions in my plan for this winter.

Boosters, testing at the forefront

►All adults should get a booster shot six months after they got vaccinated (or two months after, if you were vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson). Right now, most adults in this country who are eligible for boosters still have not gotten their booster shot. We are expanding our nationwide booster campaign with more appointments, more hours – including nights and weekends – and more walk-ins. To spread the word, pharmacies will send millions of texts and emails to remind their customers. My administration will also contact the more than 60 million people on Medicare. And, to reach their 38 million members, we’ll join town halls and events hosted by AARP, which is also offering seniors free rides to boosters.

►We are expanding our efforts to vaccinate children ages 5 and up and keep our schools open. To replace the mass vaccination sites for adults we had earlier in the year with a more comfortable setting for families and children, we will launch hundreds of new family vaccination clinics to make it easier for children, parents and whole families to get vaccinated in one place. These sites will be at community health centers and other trusted locations – and even some mobile sites to reach hard to reach communities. 

Today, over 99% of schools are open, and we need to make sure we keep it that way this winter. While vaccinating our kids is critical to keeping our schools open, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also reviewing new approaches to keep our children in school instead of quarantining at home.

►We are making free at-home tests available. Thanks to our actions, there are now at least eight at-home testing options available. Prices for these tests are decreasing. But it’s not enough. My administration is requiring that health insurers cover the cost of at-home testing. If you are one of the 150 million Americans on private health insurance, at-home tests will be covered by your insurance. And, if you’re not covered by private insurance, we will make free tests available for pickup at thousands of sites nationwide. 

Medical initiatives part of plan, too

►We will increase “Surge Response Teams” – the doctors, nurses, and medical staff that go into communities with rising cases and help overburdened hospitals. Since summer, we have worked with Republican and Democratic governors to deploy Surge Response Teams in response to the delta variant. These teams worked in communities struggling with surges, and we’ll more than double the number of teams this winter.

►We are increasing the availability of new medicines, including monoclonal antibody treatments that have been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization. We also may soon have promising new antiviral pills that could help prevent hospitalization and death of people infected by COVID-19. If approved, we will ensure that these new medicines are available in the hardest-hit communities.

►In order to beat this pandemic at home, we have to beat this pandemic globally. COVID-19 and the delta and omicron variants have all emerged in other parts of the world before coming here. We must vaccinate the world and strengthen international travel rules for people coming into the U.S. We have already shipped for free 280 million vaccines – more vaccines to other countries than all other countries combined. We will accelerate the delivery of more vaccines – 200 million more doses in the next 100 days. And, all international travelers entering the U.S. must test within one day of departure. This tighter testing timeline will help slow the spread of the virus.

We’ve been doing everything we can to beat this virus. And, that’s what we have to keep doing. We can and we must come together as a nation to fight this virus, to protect one another, to protect our economic recovery. We moved forward in the face of COVID-19 and the delta variant. And, we will move forward now at the start of winter and in the face of the omicron variant – together.

The White House provided this fact sheet about new actions announced by President Biden to combat COVID-19 as the United States heads into the winter months and with the emergence of a new variant, Omicron:
 
The United States has come far in its fight against the virus and is more prepared than ever to deal with the challenges of COVID-19. We have the public health tools we need to continue to fight this virus without shutting down our schools and businesses. As we head into winter, President Biden announced actions to provide additional protection to Americans and fight the Omicron and Delta variants, while keeping our economy growing.
 
This plan includes:

  1. Boosters for All Adults
  2. Vaccinations to Protect Our Kids and Keep Our Schools Open
  3. Expanding Free At-Home Testing for Americans
  4. Stronger Public Health Protocols for Safe International Travel
  5. Protections in Workplaces to Keep Our Economy Open
  6. Rapid Response Teams to Help Battle Rising Cases
  7. Supplying Treatment Pills to Help Prevent Hospitalizations and Death
  8. Continued Commitment to Global Vaccination Efforts
  9. Steps to Ensure We Are Prepared for All Scenarios 

Last week, after the World Health Organization (WHO) named the Omicron variant as a Variant of Concern, the President took immediate steps to restrict travel from the most impacted countries in order to give the U.S. time to learn more about the variant and prepare. We have more tools today to fight the Omicron variant than we have had to fight previous variants, including Delta. Nearly 60 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, booster shots are authorized for all adults, and a vaccine is authorized for kids aged 5 and older. The U.S. is leading the world in vaccinating children, and millions of Americans have already gotten their boosters. And, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing additional antiviral treatments for when people do get sick.
 
Today’s actions will ensure we are using these tools as effectively as possible to protect the American people against this variant and to continue to battle the Delta variant during the winter months when viruses tend to thrive. These actions will help keep our economy growing and keep Americans safe from severe COVID-19.
 
Today, President Biden will announce the following actions: 

  1. Boosters for All Adults: President Biden will announce new steps to ensure that the nearly 100 million eligible Americans who have not yet gotten their booster shot, get one as soon as possible. As we face the Omicron variant, boosters are more important than ever. Boosters increase the strength of your antibody response, so when the virus mutates, a booster makes it more likely that your antibodies can protect you against the new variant. This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued updated guidance recommending that every adult get a booster. All adults who completed a primary vaccination series with an mRNA vaccine at least six months ago and those who received a Johnson & Johnson shot at least two months ago are eligible for a booster. The Biden Administration has made booster shots free and convenient at over 80,000 locations nationwide. To date, over 41 million Americans have already received a booster shot, including half of eligible seniors. The President will announce additional steps to help in this effort.
  • Expanding pharmacy availability through December and reaching out to all eligible customers to get their booster: As demand for boosters increases, the largest federal pharmacy partners will be ready to help meet that demand. Pharmacy partners are launching broad-based outreach campaigns to encourage the public to get their boosters, and are sending millions of texts, calls, and emails to eligible customers with information on how to schedule an appointment or walk-in for their booster shot. In addition, pharmacy partners will continue to offer call center services to support members of the public who need assistance, including in multiple languages. The President will also announce that the pharmacy program will continue to take steps to expand availability, so that adults can continue to receive their booster shots at trusted, convenient pharmacies near them. Nationwide, more than two in three COVID-19 vaccinations are already happening at local pharmacies. Federal pharmacy partners will continue to expand access by adding capacity across their network to meet the needs of their local communities. They will also work to ensure equitable access to boosters by offering vaccinations at convenient hours, including evenings and over weekends, so that adults can get boosted at a time that works best for them.
     
  • Launching a new public education campaign to encourage adults to get boosters, with a special focus on seniors: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will launch a new public education campaign to ensure every adult American is getting their booster as soon as they are eligible. This effort will put a special focus on seniors who are the most vulnerable, including seniors from communities of color and seniors from underserved communities. The campaign will feature paid advertising across multiple channels, engagement with community organizations, robust stakeholder outreach, and earned media campaigns.
     
  • Collaborating with AARP on an education campaign focused on getting seniors boosted: AARP has been engaged in a robust education effort around COVID-19 and primary vaccinations throughout the pandemic. As we shift toward getting more seniors boosted, AARP will build on these efforts, and in collaboration with the Administration, will serve seniors through:
     
  • Town Halls: The Administration will participate in AARP-sponsored tele-town halls to reach thousands of seniors over the coming months and educate older Americans about the importance of boosters.
     
  • Rides to Booster Shots: AARP has committed to delivering rides through volunteers and partnerships with other organizations to help seniors get boosted at local pharmacies, clinics, events, churches, or other trusted locations.
     
  • Events and Call Center: AARP and the Administration will participate in local events and media opportunities across the country in the weeks ahead. In addition, the Administration has provided new training to help CDC’s National COVID-19 Vaccine Assistance hotline answer AARP members’ and all seniors’ questions about boosters or find an appointment at 1-800-232-0233.
     
  • Targeting outreach to Medicare beneficiaries: As part of a comprehensive plan to get older adults the extra protection they need through a booster, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is launching an education and outreach initiative to get Medicare beneficiaries boosted. This will include sending a notice from the CMS Administrator to all Medicare beneficiaries encouraging them to get boosted and providing information about how to easily access a booster shot in their community. Approximately 63 million people are enrolled in Medicare, and this is the first time in more than 4 years that Medicare has sent all Medicare beneficiaries a notice of this kind. CMS will also send emails, add messages to the 1-800-MEDICARE call center and incorporate messaging into advertising campaigns highly targeted to high-risk audiences with lower booster uptake.
     
  • Calling on employers to follow the federal government’s lead and provide paid time off to their employees to get boosted: All federal employees currently receive paid time off to get booster shots. The President will call on employers throughout the country to remove a barrier to vaccination access by providing the same paid time off for their employees if they are not doing so already, including paid time off for family members getting their first, second, or booster shots. No one should have to choose between their pay check and getting the additional protection of a booster shot or a child vaccination. Currently, about one-third of workers report not receiving paid time off for vaccinations, and thirty-five percent of parents report being concerned about having to take time off work to get their child vaccinated or care for them if they experience side effects. Over the course of our pandemic response, these concerns have been even more pressing in our underserved communities; earlier this year, 64 percent of unvaccinated Hispanic/Latino adults and 55 percent of unvaccinated Black adults reported concern about missing work to get vaccinated.
  1. Vaccinations to Protect Our Kids and Keep Our Schools Open: The President will announce new actions to get more kids ages 5 and older vaccinated and to keep our schools open. When the President came into office, more than half the schools in our country were closed. Today, 99 percent of schools across the country are fully open and in person. The steps the President is announcing today will ensure that remains the case. As we face the Omicron variant, we now have an important new tool: vaccines for kids ages 5-11. The U.S. leads the world in vaccinating children in this age group. To date, we have already vaccinated over 4 million 5- to 11-year-olds and 15 million adolescents. Vaccinating our kids protects them, keeps schools open, and protects everyone around them. The Biden Administration has made it easy for parents to get their kids vaccinated with over 35,000 sites that parents know and trust, including pharmacies, pediatricians’ offices, children’s hospitals and school-based clinics. The President will announce new actions to get kids vaccinated and ensure that schools stay open.
  • Launching hundreds of family vaccination clinics to get the whole family vaccinated or boosted in one trusted and convenient location: The President will announce a new effort to launch hundreds of family vaccination clinics across the country. Together, these clinics will offer vaccinations for the whole family – with first shots for parents, teens, and kids, and boosters for those eligible. This model builds on the Administration’s ongoing efforts – in coordination with states, localities, providers and community leaders – to meet people where they are and make vaccinations accessible and convenient in communities across the country. HRSA will launch Family Vaccination Days – with hundreds of community health centers across the country hosting family vaccination clinics throughout December. Over two in three shots at community health centers are administered to people of color. FEMA will launch Family Mobile Vaccination Clinics, deploying sites, staff, and support to states across the country that need help – beginning with its first deployments to Washington and New Mexico. States and localities will pioneer this model nationwide – with full federal funding and support, and receive a new playbook to provide all partners with the information they need to stand up these sites and increase equitable access to vaccination. And, at thousands of pharmacies nationwide, federal pharmacy partners – including CVS and Rite Aid – will make available family-based scheduling over the coming months so that parents have a one-stop-shop to get their family their vaccination appointments all at once.
     
  • Requiring Medicaid to pay health care providers to talk to families about getting their kids vaccinated: Increasing COVID-19 vaccinations and centering equity in COVID-19 vaccinations requires meeting our hardest-hit and highest-risk communities where they are with information from trusted sources. To help parents get their questions answered and make informed decisions about COVID-19 vaccination for their children, all Medicaid programs will pay health care providers to talk to parents about the importance of kids’ vaccination. Medicaid will cover COVID-19 vaccine counseling visits for most children and youth up to age 21 with 100% federal funding throughout the public health emergency and the following year. Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program provide health insurance coverage to over 40 percent of all children in the United States and are a significant source of coverage for Black and brown children. Today’s action will help expand access to individualized medical advice in all of our communities and give families the support they need to engage with trusted community providers. 
     
  • Reviewing school COVID-19 prevention policies to avoid closures of entire classrooms or schools when there is a positive case: Thanks to efforts from the Biden Administration, 99 percent of schools are now open for full-time in-person learning – up from 46 percent at the beginning of the Administration. This progress has been crucial to making sure all students can safely be back where they belong – learning alongside their peers – and to help them accelerate through any learning loss they may have experienced in the last year and a half. Schools can stay open safely by implementing layered prevention strategies, and with the tools, guidance, and resources the Administration has provided, schools should not have to close due to COVID-19. To make sure schools can remain safely open:
  • CDC will release findings on quarantine and testing policies in schools: Today, close contacts who are not fully vaccinated should be referred for COVID-19 testing and quarantine at home for up to 14 days after exposure. While it is crucial to take proper measures to contain spread of the virus following COVID-19 exposure, this period of quarantine can significantly interrupt student’s learning, and make it challenging for parents to work. States and districts around the country have been pioneering alternative approaches to quarantine, including “test to stay” policies – where exposed students remain in school, wear masks, and test repeatedly in the days following exposure to identify and contain infection. CDC has been studying approaches to quarantine and testing, including looking at the science and data of how they may keep school communities safe. CDC will release their findings on these approaches in the coming weeks.
  • The Administration will issue a new “Safe School Checklist” to give schools a clear game plan for how to get as many of their staff and students vaccinated as possible: The best way to avoid outbreaks in schools is to stop transmission before it happens – and the best tool we have to stop transmission and keep schools open is vaccinating everyone who is eligible. Now, all students ages 5 and up are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. Today, the Administration will issue a new “Safe Schools Checklist” to all K-12 schools, detailing a set of actions that every school can take to get their staff and students vaccinated – including hosting school-located vaccination clinics, hosting community-based and family vaccination clinics and events, implementing vaccination requirements for school staff, and getting eligible vaccinated school staff booster shots. The Checklist will also link to resources schools can use to set up these initiatives and talk to families about the importance of vaccination.
     
  • Providing every resource to the FDA to support timely review of applications for vaccines for individuals under the age of 5: The President will announce that, as he did for a vaccine for kids ages 5-11, he supports the independent scientific review of a vaccine for those individuals under the age of 5 and will provide the FDA with any needed resources to do this safely and as quickly as possible once data is submitted to the agency.
  1. Expanding Free At-Home Testing for Americans: Today, the President will announce new steps to ensure that Americans has access to free at-home testing. First, the more than 150 million Americans with private insurance – who now are able to get tests covered in physician offices, pharmacies, and clinics with no cost sharing – will also be able to get at-home tests reimbursed by their insurance. Second, for those not covered by private insurance, in addition to more than 20,000 federally-supported free testing sites across the U.S., at-home tests will be distributed through key community sites, such as health centers and rural clinics. The Biden Administration has taken significant steps to increase testing in the country since January. We are on track to quadruple the supply of rapid at-home tests that we had in late-Summer. Today’s actions will help Americans access the tests they need to help them stop the spread of COVID-19 to others.
  • Providing health plan coverage of no-cost rapid, over-the-counter (OTC) COVID-19 tests:  To expand access and affordability of at-home COVID-19 tests, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury will issue guidance by January 15th to clarify that individuals who purchase OTC COVID-19 diagnostic tests will be able to seek reimbursement from their group health plan or health insurance issuer and have insurance cover the cost during the public health emergency. Workplace screening would remain consistent with current guidance. Today’s announcement follows the President’s September action directing more than $2 billion to accelerate the production of rapid tests and an additional $1 billion investment in procuring at-home tests. Over the same time period, FDA authorized five additional over-the-counter tests. A total of 8 tests are on the market today; no test was on the market when the President took office.
     
  • Expanding community distribution of free at-home tests through neighborhood sites such as health centers and rural clinics: To ensure equitable access to free at-home tests for our uninsured and underserved communities, the President will double the commitment from September to distribute 25 million free tests to community sites to 50 million tests and will add rural clinics to the program. Partnerships with trusted community providers will aid in getting these important testing supplies into the homes of our hardest-hit communities.
  1. Stronger Public Health Protocols for Safe International Travel: Last month, the Administration implemented stronger international travel protocols, including requirements for foreign travelers to be fully vaccinated. The very day the WHO identified the new Omicron variant, the Biden Administration took immediate steps to restrict travel from the countries in the region where it was confirmed to be spreading quickly. The President will announce additional steps to strengthen the safety of international travel as we face this new threat – just as we have faced those that have come before it. 
  • Strengthening global pre-departure testing protocols: Early next week, the United States will tighten pre-departure testing protocols by requiring all inbound international travelers to test within one day of departure globally, regardless of nationality or vaccination status. This tighter testing timeline provides an added degree of public health protection as scientists continue to assess the Omicron variant.
     
  • Extending the requirement to wear a mask on airplanes, rail travel, and public transportation: The Administration will continue to require masking during international or other public travel – as well as in transportation hubs such as airports or indoor bus terminals – through March 18 as we continue to battle COVID-19 this winter. The Transportation Security Administration will extend its implementing orders to maintain these requirements through March 18. Fines will continue to be doubled from their initial levels for noncompliance with the masking requirements – with a minimum fine of $500 and fines of up to $3,000 for repeat offenders.
  1. Protecting Workplaces to Keep Businesses Open: Today, the President will announce additional progress we’re making in protecting workers and keeping our economy growing and businesses open. Since President Biden took office, the economy has added 5.6 million jobs, new unemployment claims have fallen by 70 percent, and applications for new businesses have risen 30 percent above the pre-pandemic average. To protect this progress and to ensure workers stay safe and on the job, we have to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our workplaces and places of businesses. Vaccination requirements do just that. The President is calling on businesses to continue to take steps to ensure workers are protected as we head into the winter. 
  • Calling on businesses to move forward with vaccination or testing programs: The President will call on businesses to move forward expeditiously with requiring their workers to get vaccinated or tested weekly. This is especially important given the Omicron variant. No business should shut down this winter because of COVID-19. The Department of Labor has provided a clear roadmap to help businesses keep workers safe and their doors open. Already, 60 percent of businesses report they are moving forward with implementing a program to ensure their workers are either vaccinated or tested on a weekly basis, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and more than 100 leading public health experts have encouraged businesses to not delay in implementing these protective measures. The President will urge businesses to take steps now to protect workers, customers, and the economy.
  1. Rapid Response Teams to Help Battle Rising Cases: Today, the President will announce new actions to help states battle any potential COVID-19 outbreaks this winter, including of the Omicron variant. As we worked to bring down the Delta surge throughout this summer and fall, we successfully deployed thousands of federal personnel to help 27 states and two territories. These COVID-19 Surge Response Teams mobilized to address critical needs on the ground, including personnel, therapeutics, and technical expertise. To date, we have deployed over 2,000 personnel, including 1,300 clinical providers; surged over 3,200 ventilators, ambulances and other critical supplies; and shipped over 2.3 million courses of lifesaving monoclonal antibody treatments. As we face the potential of a new variant and rising cases during the winter months, today, the President will make clear that federal government will once again be prepared to help.
  • Making 60+ Winter COVID emergency response team deployments available to states: To ensure states have the help they need as they battle rising cases, the President will announce new emergency response teams that will be available to help supplement state efforts. These teams include:
    • 20+ Department of Defense Medical Response Team deployments to support clinical staffing at strained hospitals.
    • 10 National Disaster Medical System team deployments to provide clinical support at strained hospitals.
    • 20+ monoclonal antibody strike team deployments to support the administration of these lifesaving treatments.
    • 15+ CDC expert deployments to conduct outbreak investigations and provide epidemiological or technical support whenever needed.
       
  • Strengthening our national volunteer emergency medical response corps to support communities in need: To help local municipalities strengthen their health preparedness and response, today the President will announce $20 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan to strengthen the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), a network of medical and public health volunteers organized locally to improve the health of their communities. This funding will provide additional resources needed to support the roughly 300,000 MRC medical and public health professionals who have already volunteered more than 2 million hours toward local COVID-19 response. HHS will also lead a national effort to mobilize volunteers, including retired doctors and nurses, in areas with rising COVID cases.
  1. Supplying Treatment Pills to Help Prevent Hospitalizations and Death: As we head into winter, new COVID-19 treatments may be on the horizon that could help prevent hospitalization and death. As these treatments continue to be developed and reviewed, today, the President will announce that we are ensuring that if and when any new COVID-19 treatment pills have been found to meet FDA’s scientific standards, they are equitably accessible to all Americans, regardless of their income or their zip code.
  • Securing enough supply and ensuring pills are widely available in the hardest-hit, highest-risk communities: The Administration is taking steps to secure 13 million doses of antiviral courses to ensure we have ample supply for Americans who need treatment. That number is six times the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations reported throughout this entire year. As more and more treatments may become available in the coming months, the Administration will ensure our underserved communities, often at highest risk from the virus, will be able to conveniently access these potentially lifesaving treatments.
  1. Continued Commitment to Global Vaccination Efforts: Today, the President will reaffirm his commitment to help vaccinate the globe, and call on other countries to do the same to combat this pandemic globally and help prevent the development of new variants.
  • Donating 1.2 billion doses to the world: To date, the U.S. has committed to donate 1.2 billion doses to the world. For every one shot the Biden Administration has administered in the U.S., we are donating about three doses to people around the world. The U.S. is also the first country to give up its 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, we are working with partners to expand supply of critical ancillary needs like syringes.
     
  • Accelerating the delivery of more vaccines to countries in need by pledging to deliver 200 million more doses in the next 100 days. To build on our donations of over 275 million doses that have been shared with 110 countries, including 94 million doses to Africa, we are pledging to deliver 200 million more doses in the next 100 days – accelerating the delivery of vaccines to countries in need. These doses are being delivered for free with no strings attached. The U.S. is also the first country to negotiate a deal with J&J and the COVAX facility to send vaccines directly to humanitarian settings and conflict zones to vaccinate displaced people.
     
  • Taking steps to ramp up manufacturing here and abroad, building out a sustainable supply chain and increasing capacity globally to make vaccines: We are ramping up vaccine manufacturing, building a sustainable supply chain and increasing global capacity to make additional vaccines. We will continue our work to invest in companies that have experience manufacturing mRNA vaccines to help them expand capacity by an additional 1 billion doses per year, with production starting by the second half of 2022.
     
  • Turning vaccines into vaccinations: We are working with country partners to get doses into arms with plans tailored to specific country needs. With lines of effort ranging from communications campaigns to build vaccine confidence, to funding for vaccinators on the front line – the U.S. government is committed to getting people vaccinated around the world.
  1. Steps to Ensure We Are Prepared for All Scenarios: Health and medical experts believe that the current vaccines authorized in the U.S. provide at least some protection against the Omicron variant and that boosters strengthen that protection significantly. However, to ensure that we are prepared for all scenarios, the Administration is taking steps now to be able to quickly act if updated vaccinations or boosters are needed to respond to the Omicron variant.

Accelerating the development and deployment of new vaccines and boosters if needed for the Omicron variant: The President is committed to using every resource and tool available to the U.S. government to ensure that we can quickly get updated vaccines and boosters to the American people in the unlikely event they are needed to battle the Omicron variant. The Administration is working closely with executives at Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson to develop contingency plans for other vaccinations or boosters if needed. The President will also use every resource available to help support the FDA and CDC to quickly review new vaccines, if needed, while ensuring that the rigorous safety review process is upheld. The President is also committed to doing the same for any COVID-19 treatment that may be needed for this variant.

Biden Launches Aggressive Plan, Including Vaccine Mandates, More Testing, Treatments to Combat COVID-19

President Joe Biden, declaring that America has lost patience with the 25 percent of Americans – 80 million – who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in face of a surging Delta variant, put away the carrot and took out the stick, issuing new executive orders that will mandate vaccinations for all federal workers and workers for federal contractors, personnel in hospitals and medical facilities that take Medicare or Medicaid, and requiring corporations with over 100 workers to mandate vaccinations or weekly testing – orders that will cover about two-thirds of all American workers. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

President Joe Biden, declaring that America has lost patience with the 25 percent of Americans – 80 million – who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in face of a surging Delta variant, put away the carrot and took out the stick, issuing new executive orders that will mandate vaccinations for all federal workers and workers for federal contractors, personnel in hospitals and medical facilities that take Medicare or Medicaid, and requiring corporations with over 100 workers to mandate vaccinations or weekly testing – orders that will cover about two-thirds of all American workers.

“What makes it incredibly more frustrating is that we have the tools to combat COVID-19, and a distinct minority of Americans –supported by a distinct minority of elected officials — are keeping us from turning the corner.  These pandemic politics, as I refer to, are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die.

“We cannot allow these actions to stand in the way of protecting the large majority of Americans who have done their part and want to get back to life as normal…

“My plan also increases testing, protects our economy, and will make our kids safer in schools.  It consists of six broad areas of action and many specific measures in each that — and each of those actions that you can read more about at WhiteHouse.gov.”

Key to the plan is the mandate vaccinations in various instances

“This is not about freedom or personal choice.  It’s about protecting yourself and those around you — the people you work with, the people you care about, the people you love.
 
“My job as President is to protect all Americans.” 

To the unvaccinated, the President said, “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin.  And your refusal has cost all of us.  So, please, do the right thing.  But just don’t take it from me; listen to the voices of unvaccinated Americans who are lying in hospital beds, taking their final breaths, saying, “If only I had gotten vaccinated.”  “If only.”

Here’s a highlighted transcript of his speech on September 9, 2021:

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, my fellow Americans.  I want to talk to you about where we are in the battle against COVID-19, the progress we’ve made, and the work we have left to do.
 
And it starts with understanding this: Even as the Delta variant COVID-19 has been hitting this country hard, we have the tools to combat the virus, if we can come together as a country and use those tools.
 
If we raise our vaccination rate, protect ourselves and others with masking and expanded testing, and identify people who are infected, we can and we will turn the tide on COVID-19.
 
It will take a lot of hard work, and it’s going to take some time.  Many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated, even though the vaccine is safe, effective, and free.
 
You might be confused about what is true and what is false about COVID-19.  So before I outline the new steps to fight COVID-19 that I’m going to be announcing tonight, let me give you some clear information about where we stand.
 
First, we have made considerable progress in battling COVID-19.  When I became President, about 2 million Americans were fully vaccinated.  Today, over 175 million Americans have that protection
 
Before I took office, we hadn’t ordered enough vaccine for every American.  Just weeks in office, we did.  The week before I took office, on January 20th of this year, over 25,000 Americans died that week from COVID-19.  Last week, that grim weekly toll was down 70 percent.
 
And in the three months before I took office, our economy was faltering, creating just 50,000 jobs a month.  We’re now averaging 700,000 new jobs a month in the past three months.
 
This progress is real.  But while America is in much better shape than it was seven months ago when I took office, I need to tell you a second fact.
 
We’re in a tough stretch, and it could last for a while.
  The highly contagious Delta variant that I began to warn America about back in July spread in late summer like it did in other countries before us.
 
While the vaccines provide strong protections for the vaccinated, we read about, we hear about, and we see the stories of hospitalized people, people on their death beds, among the unvaccinated over these past few weeks. 
 
This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.  And it’s caused by the fact that despite America having an unprecedented and successful vaccination program, despite the fact that for almost five months free vaccines have been available in 80,000 different locations, we still have nearly 80 million Americans who have failed to get the shot. 
 
And to make matters worse, there are elected officials actively working to undermine the fight against COVID-19.  Instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated and mask up, they’re ordering mobile morgues for the unvaccinated dying from COVID in their communities.  This is totally unacceptable.
 
Third, if you wonder how all this adds up, here’s the math:  The vast majority of Americans are doing the right thing.  Nearly three quarters of the eligible have gotten at least one shot, but one quarter has not gotten any.  That’s nearly 80 million Americans not vaccinated.  And in a country as large as ours, that’s 25 percent minority.  That 25 percent can cause a lot of damage — and they are.
 
The unvaccinated overcrowd our hospitals, are overrunning the emergency rooms and intensive care units, leaving no room for someone with a heart attack, or [pancreatitis], or cancer.
 
And fourth, I want to emphasize that the vaccines provide very strong protection from severe illness from COVID-19.  I know there’s a lot of confusion and misinformation.  But the world’s leading scientists confirm that if you are fully vaccinated, your risk of severe illness from COVID-19 is very low. 
 
In fact, based on available data from the summer, only one of out of every 160,000 fully vaccinated Americans was hospitalized for COVID per day.
 
These are the facts. 
 
So here’s where we stand: The path ahead, even with the Delta variant, is not nearly as bad as last winter.  But what makes it incredibly more frustrating is that we have the tools to combat COVID-19, and a distinct minority of Americans –supported by a distinct minority of elected officials — are keeping us from turning the corner.  These pandemic politics, as I refer to, are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die. 
 
We cannot allow these actions to stand in the way of protecting the large majority of Americans who have done their part and want to get back to life as normal. 
 
As your President, I’m announcing tonight a new plan to require more Americans to be vaccinated, to combat those blocking public health. 
 
My plan also increases testing, protects our economy, and will make our kids safer in schools.  It consists of six broad areas of action and many specific measures in each that — and each of those actions that you can read more about at WhiteHouse.gov.  WhiteHouse.gov.
 
The measures — these are going to take time to have full impact.  But if we implement them, I believe and the scientists indicate, that in the months ahead we can reduce the number of unvaccinated Americans, decrease hospitalizations and deaths, and allow our children to go to school safely and keep our economy strong by keeping businesses open.
 
First, we must increase vaccinations among the unvaccinated with new vaccination requirements.  Of the nearly 80 million eligible Americans who have not gotten vaccinated, many said they were waiting for approval from the Food and Drug Administration — the FDA.  Well, last month, the FDA granted that approval.
 
So, the time for waiting is over.  This summer, we made progress through the combination of vaccine requirements and incentives, as well as the FDA approval.  Four million more people got their first shot in August than they did in July. 
 
But we need to do more.  This is not about freedom or personal choice.  It’s about protecting yourself and those around you — the people you work with, the people you care about, the people you love.
 
My job as President is to protect all Americans. 
 
So, tonight, I’m announcing that the Department of Labor is developing an emergency rule to require all employers with 100 or more employees, that together employ over 80 million workers, to ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated or show a negative test at least once a week.
 
Some of the biggest companies are already requiring this: United Airlines, Disney, Tysons Food, and even Fox News.
 
The bottom line: We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers.  We’re going to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that is vaccinated in businesses all across America.
 
My plan will extend the vaccination requirements that I previously issued in the healthcare field.  Already, I’ve announced, we’ll be requiring vaccinations that all nursing home workers who treat patients on Medicare and Medicaid, because I have that federal authority.
 
Tonight, I’m using that same authority to expand that to cover those who work in hospitals, home healthcare facilities, or other medical facilities –- a total of 17 million healthcare workers.
 
If you’re seeking care at a health facility, you should be able to know that the people treating you are vaccinated.  Simple.  Straightforward.  Period.
 
Next, I will sign an executive order that will now require all executive branch federal employees to be vaccinated — all.  And I’ve signed another executive order that will require federal contractors to do the same.
 
If you want to work with the federal government and do business with us, get vaccinated.  If you want to do business with the federal government, vaccinate your workforce. 
 
And tonight, I’m removing one of the last remaining obstacles that make it difficult for you to get vaccinated.
 
The Department of Labor will require employers with 100 or more workers to give those workers paid time off to get vaccinated.  No one should lose pay in order to get vaccinated or take a loved one to get vaccinated.
 
Today, in total, the vaccine requirements in my plan will affect about 100 million Americans –- two thirds of all workers. 
 
And for other sectors, I issue this appeal: To those of you running large entertainment venues — from sports arenas to concert venues to movie theaters — please require folks to get vaccinated or show a negative test as a condition of entry.
 
And to the nation’s family physicians, pediatricians, GPs — general practitioners –- you’re the most trusted medical voice to your patients.  You may be the one person who can get someone to change their mind about being vaccinated. 
 
Tonight, I’m asking each of you to reach out to your unvaccinated patients over the next two weeks and make a personal appeal to them to get the shot.  America needs your personal involvement in this critical effort.
 
And my message to unvaccinated Americans is this: What more is there to wait for?  What more do you need to see?  We’ve made vaccinations free, safe, and convenient.
 
The vaccine has FDA approval.  Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot. 
 
We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin.  And your refusal has cost all of us.  So, please, do the right thing.  But just don’t take it from me; listen to the voices of unvaccinated Americans who are lying in hospital beds, taking their final breaths, saying, “If only I had gotten vaccinated.”  “If only.”
 
It’s a tragedy.  Please don’t let it become yours.
 
The second piece of my plan is continuing to protect the vaccinated.
 
For the vast majority of you who have gotten vaccinated, I understand your anger at those who haven’t gotten vaccinated.  I understand the anxiety about getting a “breakthrough” case.
 
But as the science makes clear, if you’re fully vaccinated, you’re highly protected from severe illness, even if you get COVID-19.  
 
In fact, recent data indicates there is only one confirmed positive case per 5,000 fully vaccinated Americans per day.
 
You’re as safe as possible, and we’re doing everything we can to keep it that way — keep it that way, keep you safe.
 
That’s where boosters come in — the shots that give you even more protection than after your second shot.
 
Now, I know there’s been some confusion about boosters.  So, let me be clear: Last month, our top government doctors announced an initial plan for booster shots for vaccinated Americans.  They believe that a booster is likely to provide the highest level of protection yet.
 
Of course, the decision of which booster shots to give, when to start them, and who will give them, will be left completely to the scientists at the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control.
 
But while we wait, we’ve done our part.  We’ve bought enough boosters — enough booster shots — and the distribution system is ready to administer them.
 
As soon as they are authorized, those eligible will be able to get a booster right away in tens of thousands of sites across the country for most Americans, at your nearby drug store, and for free
 
The third piece of my plan is keeping — and maybe the most important — is keeping our children safe and our schools open.  For any parent, it doesn’t matter how low the risk of any illness or accident is when it comes to your child or grandchild.  Trust me, I know. 
 
So, let me speak to you directly.  Let me speak to you directly to help ease some of your worries.
 
It comes down to two separate categories: children ages 12 and older who are eligible for a vaccine now, and children ages 11 and under who are not are yet eligible.
 
The safest thing for your child 12 and older is to get them vaccinated.  They get vaccinated for a lot of things.  That’s it.  Get them vaccinated.
 
As with adults, almost all the serious COVID-19 cases we’re seeing among adolescents are in unvaccinated 12- to 17-year-olds — an age group that lags behind in vaccination rates.
 
So, parents, please get your teenager vaccinated.
 
What about children under the age of 12 who can’t get vaccinated yet?  Well, the best way for a parent to protect their child under the age of 12 starts at home.  Every parent, every teen sibling, every caregiver around them should be vaccinated.  
 
Children have four times higher chance of getting hospitalized if they live in a state with low vaccination rates rather than the states with high vaccination rates. 
 
Now, if you’re a parent of a young child, you’re wondering when will the vaccine be available for them.  I strongly support an independent scientific review for vaccine uses for children under 12.  We can’t take shortcuts with that scientific work. 
 
But I’ve made it clear I will do everything within my power to support the FDA with any resource it needs to continue to do this as safely and as quickly as possible, and our nation’s top doctors are committed to keeping the public at large updated on the process so parents can plan.
 
Now to the schools.  We know that if schools follow the science and implement the safety measures — like testing, masking, adequate ventilation systems that we provided the money for, social distancing, and vaccinations — then children can be safe from COVID-19 in schools.
 
Today, about 90 percent of school staff and teachers are vaccinated.  We should get that to 100 percent.  My administration has already required teachers at the schools run by the Defense Department — because I have the authority as President in the federal system — the Defense Department and the Interior Department — to get vaccinated.  That’s authority I possess. 
 
Tonight, I’m announcing that we’ll require all of nearly 300,000 educators in the federal paid program, Head Start program, must be vaccinated as well to protect your youngest –– our youngest — most precious Americans and give parents the comfort.
 
And tonight, I’m calling on all governors to require vaccination for all teachers and staff.  Some already have done so, but we need more to step up. 
 
Vaccination requirements in schools are nothing new.  They work.  They’re overwhelmingly supported by educators and their unions.  And to all school officials trying to do the right thing by our children: I’ll always be on your side. 
 
Let me be blunt.  My plan also takes on elected officials and states that are undermining you and these lifesaving actions.  Right now, local school officials are trying to keep children safe in a pandemic while their governor picks a fight with them and even threatens their salaries or their jobs.  Talk about bullying in schools.  If they’ll not help — if these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as President to get them out of the way. 
 
The Department of Education has already begun to take legal action against states undermining protection that local school officials have ordered.  Any teacher or school official whose pay is withheld for doing the right thing, we will have that pay restored by the federal government 100 percent.  I promise you I will have your back. 
 
The fourth piece of my plan is increasing testing and masking.  From the start, America has failed to do enough COVID-19 testing.  In order to better detect and control the Delta variant, I’m taking steps tonight to make testing more available, more affordable, and more convenient.  I’ll use the Defense Production Act to increase production of rapid tests, including those that you can use at home. 
 
While that production is ramping up, my administration has worked with top retailers, like Walmart, Amazon, and Kroger’s, and tonight we’re announcing that, no later than next week, each of these outlets will start to sell at-home rapid test kits at cost for the next three months.  This is an immediate price reduction for at-home test kits for up to 35 percent reduction.
 
We’ll also expand free testing at 10,000 pharmacies around the country.  And we’ll commit — we’re committing $2 billion to purchase nearly 300 million rapid tests for distribution to community health centers, food banks, schools, so that every American, no matter their income, can access free and convenient tests.  This is important to everyone, particularly for a parent or a child — with a child not old enough to be vaccinated.  You’ll be able to test them at home and test those around them.
 
In addition to testing, we know masking helps stop the spread of COVID-19.  That’s why when I came into office, I required masks for all federal buildings and on federal lands, on airlines, and other modes of transportation.  
 
Today — tonight, I’m announcing that the Transportation Safety Administration — the TSA — will double the fines on travelers that refuse to mask.  If you break the rules, be prepared to pay. 
 
And, by the way, show some respect.  The anger you see on television toward flight attendants and others doing their job is wrong; it’s ugly. 
 
The fifth piece of my plan is protecting our economic recovery.  Because of our vaccination program and the American Rescue Plan, which we passed early in my administration, we’ve had record job creation for a new administration, economic growth unmatched in 40 years.  We cannot let unvaccinated do this progress — undo it, turn it back. 
 
So tonight, I’m announcing additional steps to strengthen our economic recovery.  We’ll be expanding COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan programs.  That’s a program that’s going to allow small businesses to borrow up to $2 million from the current $500,000 to keep going if COVID-19 impacts on their sales. 
 
These low-interest, long-term loans require no repayment for two years and be can used to hire and retain workers, purchase inventory, or even pay down higher cost debt racked up since the pandemic began.  I’ll also be taking additional steps to help small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic. 
 
Sixth, we’re going to continue to improve the care of those who do get COVID-19.  In early July, I announced the deployment of surge response teams.  These are teams comprised of experts from the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC, the Defense Department, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency — FEMA — to areas in the country that need help to stem the spread of COVID-19. 
 
Since then, the federal government has deployed nearly 1,000 staff, including doctors, nurses, paramedics, into 18 states.  Today, I’m announcing that the Defense Department will double the number of military health teams that they’ll deploy to help their fellow Americans in hospitals around the country. 
 
Additionally, we’re increasing the availability of new medicines recommended by real doctors, not conspiracy theorists.  The monoclonal antibody treatments have been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization by up to 70 percent for unvaccinated people at risk of developing sefe- — severe disease. 
 
We’ve already distributed 1.4 million courses of these treatments to save lives and reduce the strain on hospitals.  Tonight, I’m announcing we will increase the average pace of shipment across the country of free monoclonal antibody treatments by another 50 percent.
 
Before I close, let me say this: Communities of color are disproportionately impacted by this virus.  And as we continue to battle COVID-19, we will ensure that equity continues to be at the center of our response.  We’ll ensure that everyone is reached.  My first responsibility as President is to protect the American people and make sure we have enough vaccine for every American, including enough boosters for every American who’s approved to get one. 
 
We also know this virus transcends borders.  That’s why, even as we execute this plan at home, we need to continue fighting the virus overseas, continue to be the arsenal of vaccines. 
 
We’re proud to have donated nearly 140 million vaccines over 90 countries, more than all other countries combined, including Europe, China, and Russia combined.  That’s American leadership on a global stage, and that’s just the beginning.
 
We’ve also now started to ship another 500 million COVID vaccines — Pfizer vaccines — purchased to donate to 100 lower-income countries in need of vaccines.  And I’ll be announcing additional steps to help the rest of the world later this month.
 
As I recently released the key parts of my pandemic preparedness plan so that America isn’t caught flat-footed when a new pandemic comes again — and it will — next month, I’m also going to release the plan in greater detail.
 
So let me close with this: We have made so much progress during the past seven months of this pandemic.  The recent increases in vaccinations in August already are having an impact in some states where case counts are dropping in recent days.  Even so, we remain at a critical moment, a critical time.  We have the tools.  Now we just have to finish the job with truth, with science, with confidence, and together as one nation.
 
Look, we’re the United States of America.  There’s nothing — not a single thing — we’re unable to do if we do it together.  So let’s stay together.
 
God bless you all and all those who continue to serve on the frontlines of this pandemic.  And may God protect our troops.
 
Get vaccinated.

Biden Administration Details Plans for Ongoing Pandemic Preparedness

A medical volunteer administers the COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination site in Nassau County, Long Island, New York. The Biden Administration has developed plans and strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for inevitable future pandemics © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In a White House press call, September 3, 2021, Biden Administration officials laid out plans and strategy for pandemic preparedness to counter the COVID-19 pandemic still impacting the nation and the world, and to prepare for inevitable future pandemics.

The administration is seeking$65.3 billion over 7 to 10 years to institute the full set of capabilities needed to transform our ability to be prepared for any family of virus.  

“President Biden is committed to combatting the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Building Back Better for the next biological threat.  As part of this responsibility, the United States must lean forward and catalyze the advances in science, technology, and core capabilities required to protect the Nation against future and potentially catastrophic biological threats, whether naturally-occurring, accidental, or deliberate. “

Here are the remarks, and a fact sheet detailing the Biden Administration’s plan:

Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Dr. Eric Lander stated:

     The COVID-19 pandemic arrived at a time when science and technology capabilities were changing very rapidly.  Recent scientific advances made it possible to respond much more rapidly than ever before.  Had COVID-19 emerged five years ago, we would have had far fewer tools to do this.

     But, five years from now, we need to have much better capabilities.  We need to have better capabilities because, well, even with the knowledge and the tools that dramatically improved our ability to respond, COVID-19 has still been devastating for the nation and the world.

     As of today, COVID-19 has killed at least 642,000 Americans and many, many millions of people around the world, and many recovered patients are living with long-term effects of the disease.
 
It’s also caused economic damage to the United States that’s been estimated in the range of $16 trillion in lost economic output, direct spending, mortality, and morbidity.  And the societal impact has been borne disproportionately by frontline and vulnerable populations, especially people of color.

     We need better capabilities also because there is a reasonable likelihood that another serious pandemic that could be worse than COVID-19 will occur soon, possibly even within the next decade.  And the next pandemic will very likely be substantially different than COVID-19.  So, we must be prepared to deal with any type of viral threat.

     Now, because of ongoing progress in science and technology and innovation, we can have better capabilities for medicine, for situational awareness, for public health, and for lots more.  For the first time in the nation’s history, we have the opportunity, due to these kinds of advances in science and technology, not just to refill stockpiles, but transform our capabilities.  But we really need to start preparing now.

    We’ve got to seize the unique opportunity to transform our scientific capabilities so we’re prepared for the increasing frequency of biological threats on the horizon.  Investing to avert or mitigate the huge toll of future pandemics or other biological threats is both an economic and moral imperative.

     So, five years from now, we need to be in a far stronger position to stop infectious diseases before they become global pandemics like COVID-19.

     Now, there’s a lot we can do to transform our scientific capabilities for vaccine, therapeutic, diagnostic development; for early warning; for public health systems.
 
Importantly, these kinds of advances will not only strengthen our systems for dealing with future biological threats, they will be valuable for everyday public health and medical care for all Americans and for the world.  This will help everyday public health for everyone.

     Now, all these efforts, I’ve got to say, must, from the very outset, include a strong emphasis on reducing inequities and increasing access for all Americans to the resulting advances, because as we’ve seen from this pandemic, having the burden largely borne by vulnerable populations is unacceptable.

     The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed fundamental issues with America’s public heath that go far beyond pandemic preparedness.

     The issues include the need to increase overall public health funding, strengthen the public health workforce, eliminate barriers to access, improve data systems, address disparities, improve communications, and improve coordination across federal, state, local, and Tribal authorities. 

     The plan that’s being released today addresses needs directly related to pandemic preparedness, but I just want to emphasize there are broader public health issues that’ll need to be addressed separately and in a coordinated fashion.

     So, today, the White House is releasing a document entitled “American Pandemic Preparedness: Transforming our Capabilities,” and the document describes goals under five pillars to protect the U.S. against biological threats.

     Pillar number one is: transforming our medical defenses, including improving vaccine, therapeutics, and diagnostics.

     Pillar number two: ensuring situational awareness about infectious disease threats, for both early warning and real-time monitoring.

     Pillar three: strengthening public health systems, both in the U.S. and internationally, to be able to respond to emergencies, with a particular focus on protecting the most vulnerable communities.

     Pillar four: building core capabilities, including personal protective equipment, stockpiles and supply chains, biosafety and biosecurity, and regulatory improvement.

     And pillar five: managing the mission, with the seriousness of purpose, commitment, and accountability of an Apollo Program.

     So, while the government — the U.S. government has made and must continue to make investments in basic science research, this plan includes the full set of capabilities needed to transform our ability to be prepared for any family of virus.  The cost is $65.3 billion over 7 to 10 years.  

     And it’s vital that we start with an initial outlay of $15- to $20 billion to jumpstart these efforts.  And, accordingly, we’re proposing that the current budget reconciliation provides at least $15 billion towards this goal.

     The administration will work through other appropriations to support the remainder of that $65.3 billion budget, above baseline, needed to execute the plan in full.

     And over the coming months, the White House will be developing the President’s budget, which will provide resources to ensure that the United States is prepared for the next pandemic.

     So, let me just say, these critical investments will build on and complement the broader U.S. government biomedical and health research portfolio. 

     We strongly believe that this mission is so important that it needs to be managed with the seriousness of purpose, commitment, and accountability of, well, President Kennedy’s Apollo Program, overseen by a dedicated program office.

     So we’re proposing there be a centralized “Mission Control” acting as a single, unified program management unit that draws on expertise from multiple agencies at HHS, including NIH, CDC, BARDA, FDA, and CMS, as well as other agencies and departments such as DOD, DOE, VA.  You know, for example, the Countermeasures Acceleration Group — formerly “Operation Warp Speed” — is led by a single joint program management unit.

     And Mission Control should have the responsibility and the authority to develop and update plans with objective and transparent milestones; regularly assess and publicly report on mission progress; shift funding to ensure that goals are achieved; coordinate linkages across performers in government — academia, philanthropy, and industry; and conduct periodic exercises to evaluate our actual national pandemic preparedness by deploying these capabilities, including through testing rapid product development.  And it should seek input of outside experts and have working groups that allow it to get the best possible advice.

     So, like any ambitious endeavor — whether it’s going to the Moon with the Apollo mission or cracking the human DNA with the Human Genome Project — an effort like this will take serious, sustained commitment and accountability.

     And like those kinds of efforts, it is likely to yield benefits far beyond the initial mission — in this case, advances in human health and providing tools that can help overcome health inequities and ensure equitable access to innovative products for all Americans. 

     So, we at the Office of Science and Technology have been working hard on the plan in very close partnership with the National Security Council, and particularly the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan. 

NSC Director for Global Health Security and Biodefense Dr. Beth Cameron on American Pandemic Preparedness stated:

The President has been committed from day one to pandemic readiness, including ending this pandemic which threatens the world and continues to create dangerous variants.  

     In parallel, he and the administration remain committed to advancing, repairing, and strengthening health security and pandemic preparedness for the future, including obviously here in the United States but also around the world.  

     And that’s why the President took swift action early to lay out a vision and plans for this work, including signing his first National Security Memorandum, which focused on the COVID-19 health and humanitarian response; advancing health security; and building better biological preparedness.  And this plan is really one central piece of that effort. 

     We’re also actively implementing many of the actions called for in NSM-1, including, obviously, releasing a COVID-19 response strategy, both domestically and globally.  We’ve established a new domestic Center for Epidemic Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics.  We’ve reengaged with the WHO on day one.  We’re working across the government to raise the global and domestic research and development ambition to decrease the timing between detection of the new biological threat and safe delivery of targeted countermeasures and therapeutics.  And you obviously heard a lot more about that from Dr. Lander. 
 
We’re reviewing the existing state of our biodefense enterprise — and I’ll come back to that in a second — and we continue to prioritize helping other countries in need to build their capacities to prevent, detect, and respond, and to advance our programs that support the global health security agenda and establish catalytic health security financing for the future.
 
The President signed, on his first day in office, Executive Order 13987, and that focused on the organization here in the United States for COVID-19, but also on emerging biological threats.  And it included reestablishing my office — the Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense on the NSC staff.   

     And we’re really here to provide a high-level “belly button,” if you will, to elevate these important issues to the President and the NSC.  
 
Our team has a “no-fail” mission to rapidly mobilize the policy machinery to elevate high-consequence infectious disease outbreaks quickly across the White House and to the National Security Advisor, and really to empower agencies to adopt a no-regrets response.

     And we’re working very closely with OSTP and across the White House with all relevant departments and agencies as well to do a whole-of-government review and update of national bio-preparedness policies, which is directed by that executive order and by National Security Memorandum-1.  

     And so the document that we’re releasing today that Eric outlined in detail lays out a set of urgent needs and opportunities that are necessary to protect the United States against biological and pandemic threats.

     We believe that transforming our capabilities will require a systematic effort and a shared vision for biological preparedness that, as you heard from Eric, is really akin to an Apollo mission.  

     And that’s why we envision that this will be a core element of our strategy going forward on biodefense and pandemic readiness, informed by lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic.

     Importantly, though, we continue to take stock of our full range of biodefense, pandemic readiness, and global health security needs, including capabilities, policies, and practices that we need to update and refresh, building on our lessons from COVID-19 and other outbreaks.

     While this plan does lay out a clear vision for bio-preparedness, it doesn’t cover everything.  As Dr. Lander said, it’s really focused on our capabilities at home to prepare for pandemic. 

     COVID-19 has enumerated a number of challenges in our preparedness for a moderate pandemic, but we do need additional capabilities to be fully prepared for any biological event that comes our way, and that includes countering bioterrorism; countering the development and use of biological weapons; strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention; improving food security and food defense, zoonotic spillover events, and others.

     And we really focused this document on specific capabilities to stop a pandemic sooner, including a strong emphasis on science and technology, and early countermeasure development.  And we felt it was urgent to get started on this issue immediately.  
 
Simultaneously, we remain focused on reviewing and updating our other policies and practices, including across the broader healthcare system, workforce, and other areas.  And of course, we remain laser focused on the domestic and global COVID-19 response and our full programs of — a full suite of programs in support of those efforts.  These are vital, and the President has also placed a major priority on them, including in his FY22 Budget Request.

     So, just in closing, as we finalize our broader whole-of-government bio-preparedness effort, as directed by the President, this an important and crucial element, and we have to start now.

FACT SHEET:
Biden Administration to Transform Capabilities for Pandemic Preparedness

President Biden is committed to combatting the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Building Back Better for the next biological threat.  As part of this responsibility, the United States must lean forward and catalyze the advances in science, technology, and core capabilities required to protect the Nation against future and potentially catastrophic biological threats, whether naturally-occurring, accidental, or deliberate.
 
We must seize the opportunity to ready ourselves for the biological threats on the horizon. Investing to avert or mitigate the huge toll of future pandemics and other biological threats is an economic and moral imperative. The cost of pandemic prevention pales in comparison to the enormous cost – in lives and in economic cost – of a pandemic. It’s hard to imagine a higher return on national investment.
 
On January 20, the President directed a whole-of-government review of U.S. national biopreparedness policies and re-established the National Security Council Directorate on Global Health Security and Biodefense. Today, we are releasing a plan for transforming U.S. capabilities to prepare for and respond rapidly and effectively to future pandemics and other high consequence biological threats. This plan is a core element of the larger strategy to bolster and resource pandemic readiness and biodefense.
 
This plan, laid out in American Pandemic Preparedness: Transforming our Capabilities, lays out a set of urgent needs and opportunities in five key areas necessary to protect the United States against biological threats:

I. Transforming our Medical Defenses, including dramatically improving and expanding our arsenal of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.

II. Ensuring Situational Awareness about infectious-disease threats, for both early warning and real-time monitoring.

III. Strengthening Public Health Systems, both in the U.S. and internationally to be able to respond to emergencies, with a particular focus on reducing inequities and protecting the most vulnerable communities.  

IV. Building Core Capabilities, including personal protective equipment, stockpiles and supply chains, biosafety and biosecurity, and regulatory improvement.  

V. Managing the Mission, with seriousness of purpose, commitment, and accountability akin to the Apollo mission, which brought our astronauts to the moon decades ago.  

This work will include, from the outset, a strong focus on ensuring equity and access by all Americans to the resulting advances.
 
Because transforming our capabilities will take time, it is imperative that we start now.
 
Achieving these capabilities will require a systematic effort and shared vision for biological preparedness across our government.  Like any ambitious endeavor – whether the Apollo mission or the Human Genome Project that cracked the code of human genetics – transforming our nation’s pandemic preparedness will take serious, sustained commitment and ambitious accountability. And like those efforts, it is likely to yield benefits beyond the original mission – in this case advances in human health and providing tools that could overcome health inequities and ensure equitable access to innovative products.
 
In addition to this plan’s efforts to strengthen public health in the context of pandemic preparedness, we also must address the broader need to strengthen the U.S. public health system and reinvigorate our public health workforce. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to efforts to support our public health workforce and to prevent the types of public health inequities revealed by COVID-19.
 
Over the next several weeks, we will be building on this vision as we finalize our whole-of-government biopreparedness review, continue to learn from COVID-19, and commit ourselves to a biodefense and pandemic readiness strategy that builds back better in the United States and around the world for this pandemic and the next.

Musical Stars Come Out –Until the Rain – for ‘We Love NYC Homecoming Concert’ in Central Park – Here’s a Photo Replay

New Yorkers celebrate recovering from the coronavirus pandemic with a “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” on the Great Lawn in Central Park, Saturday, August 21, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

Despite being cut short midway through, the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” in Central Park on Saturday, August 21, was a huge success, having brought together an estimated 60,000 enthusiastic, vaccinated New Yorkers to be entertained by an A-plus list of performers, as eclectic and diverse as New York City.

New Yorkers displayed their trademark hospitality and resiliency in being packed together on the Great Lawn in a way they haven’t been allowed to for the past 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Enjoying Carlos Santana at the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” on the Great Lawn in Central Park, Saturday, August 21, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Gayle King of CBS pointed to the day that COVID-19 pandemic became real to her: when she heard of a nurse who reused her mask by turn it inside out and used a garbage bag because there was no more PPE.

“New Yorkers found a way – we were the epicenter of the virus, now the epicenter of recovery. There is a way out, even if it takes a while. We’re done with COVID but COVID is not done with us. Stay strong,” before telling the crowd assembled on Central Park’s Great Lawn to “party New York style.”

Marin Alsop conducts the New York Philharmonic to open the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” on the Great Lawn in Central Park, Saturday, August 21, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The concert opened with the New York Philharmonic playing a new “New York Medley” arranged by William Ross of composers and music celebrating New York City, New York’s iconic orchestra, conducted by Marin Alsop, accompanied tenor mega-star Andrea Bocelli who sang Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and Italy’s standard,  “O Sol Omio.”

Tenor Andrea Bocelli performs at the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” on the Great Lawn in Central Park, Saturday, August 21, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Then the Philharmonic closed its set with its first-ever collaboration with Jennifer Hudson — winner of honors including Academy and Grammy Awards and the star of the new Aretha Franklin biopic — who rather than singing Aretha’s famous ,”Respect,” thrilled the audience (and the orchestra) by singing an opera aria, Nessun dorma from Puccini’s Turandot, which the Queen of Soul herself once sang on the Grammys. (Did not see that coming).

Jennifer Hudson thrilled the audience by singing an opera aria, Nessun dorma, with the New York Philharmonic at the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” in Central Park, Saturday, August 21, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Jennifer Hudson thrilled the audience by singing an opera aria, Nessun dorma, with the New York Philharmonic at the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” in Central Park, Saturday, August 21, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Jennifer Hudson thrilled the audience by singing an opera aria, Nessun dorma, with the New York Philharmonic at the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” in Central Park, Saturday, August 21, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Then began a stunning parade of legendary performers presenting a full spectrum of musical genres and tastes. That was intentional, said producer Clive Davis.

Clive Davis, who produced the We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” in Central Park, Saturday, August 21, 2021 in conjunction with New York City and Live Nation, says the program intentionally tapped a full spectrum of musical genres © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Carlos Santana; Rob Thomas; Journey; Earth, Wind & Fire; Jon Batiste; Hip Hop starsSpliff Star, Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, LL Cool J, French Montana and Remy Ma; country singer Kane Brown; Julia Michaels; Polo G performing music they are best known for.

Carlos Santana performs at the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” in Central Park, Saturday, August 21, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Fat Joe and Remy Ma perform at the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” in Central Park, Saturday, August 21, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rev Run joins LL Cool J on stage at the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” in Central Park, Saturday, August 21, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
LL Cool J performs at the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” in Central Park, Saturday, August 21, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Kane Brown brings country to the city at the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” in Central Park, Saturday, August 21, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Barry Manilow had just sat at the piano, about to begin “I Made It Through the Rain” around 7:30 pm when an announcer cut in, telling the crowd to leave the park immediately due to impending dangerous weather.

That left headliners Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon and The Killers among the performers cut off.

But a light rain quickly turned into a downpour that flooded city streets, and there was thunder and lightning and one could only imagine what would have happened if they did not begin moving people out when they did.

“While it’s disappointing that tonight’s concert had to end early, the safety of everyone in attendance had to come first,” Mayor Bill DeBlasio tweeted. “To everyone who came out tonight: thank you. Thank you for showing the world that New York City is coming back stronger than ever before.”

Jon Batiste gives a spirited performance of “Freedom” at the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” in Central Park, Saturday, August 21, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Jon Batiste gives a spirited performance of “Freedom” at the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” in Central Park, Saturday, August 21, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Earth, Wind & Fire thrill the audience at the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” in Central Park, Saturday, August 21, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Here’s the full list of concert performers:

Jon Batiste
Andrea Bocelli
Kane Brown
LL COOL J
Elvis Costello
Lucky Daye
Earth, Wind & Fire
Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds
Cynthia Erivo
Jimmy Fallon
Jennifer Hudson
Wyclef Jean
Journey
The Killers
Gayle King
Don Lemon
Barry Manilow
The New York Philharmonic
Polo G
Carlos Santana
Paul Simon
Patti Smith
Bruce Springsteen
Rob Thomas
Maluma

New York City’s biggest cheerleaders, US Senator Chuck Schumer, NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio and Stephen Colbert also addressed the crowd with an upbeat message of New Yorkers having come through one of its worst crises and looking to a brighter future.

US Senator Chuck Schumer cheers for New York City’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray were hopeful the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” would be able to finish before the rain, but unfortunately, the concert was ended half way through before the first clap of thunder © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Stephen Colbert cheers for New York City’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Concern that the celebration might be premature given the resurgence of the Delta variant and breakthrough infections among vaccinated was set aside, at least for the evening, as the music got underway.

The concert was for the most part free (plus Ticketmaster fees), but people could pay for VIP packages (with premium location, VIP entrance, private restrooms, concessions with specialty food and drink options) and premium seating, and as the concert got underway, there were rumors of tickets going for as much as $5000.

An appreciative audience of some 60,000 vaccinated New Yorkers attended the “We Love NYC Homecoming Concert” in Central Park, Saturday, August 21, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Central Park concert was the climax to a week of free concerts in the boroughs: The free concerts, livestreamed by Behind The Rhyme on Twitch, were held:

●       Monday, August 16th, 3:00 p.m. at Orchard Beach in The Bronx

●       Tuesday, August 17th, 4:00 p.m. at Midland Beach on Staten Island

●       Thursday, August 19th, 4:00 p.m. at Brooklyn Army Terminal in Brooklyn

●       Friday, August 20th, 4:00 p.m. at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens

See also:

NYC HONORS HEALTH CARE, ESSENTIAL WORKERS WHO BRAVED COVID-19 WITH TICKER TAPE PARADE THROUGH CANYON OF HEROES

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© 2021 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

White House: Reopening Schools, Rebuilding With Equity

The Biden Administration is placing a priority on reopening schools safely in face of a new COVID-19 wave that is striking younger people, while advancing educational equity © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

With the Delta variant of COVID-19 impacting younger people, including children too young to be vaccinated at this stage, the Biden Administration has taken decisive action to support the safe reopening of schools for in-person instruction and to address the pandemic’s disparate impact on students of color and other underserved students.

This is in stark contrast to some Republican Governors – Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas stand out– who are actively sabotaging efforts for public schools to keep their students, faculty and community safe. DeSantis has actually threatened public school districts – including Broward, Florida’s second largest – with withholding funding if they dare impose a mask mandate (the school district rescinded its order).

In remarks about the latest efforts by the administration to get COVID-19 under control and prevent needless sickness and death (some 75,000 may die by November, according to some projections), President Biden said, “I say to these governors, ‘Please, help.’  But if you aren’t going to help, at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing.  Use your power to save lives.” (It’s as if these governors want to sabotage the Biden administration’s efforts to end the pandemic and so people suffer and then punish Democrats in the 2022 midterms and 2024 election.)

“As families across the country eagerly anticipate a return to school, the Administration is determined to ensure that our schools and students not only recover from the pandemic, but that we Build Back Better for the future.”

This fact sheet is from the White House:
 
Prioritizing safe reopening
 
The President made clear on Day One of this Administration that safely reopening schools was a national priority, signing the Executive Order on Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers, which launched a comprehensive effort across the White House, Department of Education, and Department of Health and Human Services to safely reopen schools for in-person instruction. The Department released two volumes of its COVID-19 Handbook focused on safely reopening schools and meeting the needs of students, and launched a clearinghouse of best practices for safely operating in-person and addressing the needs of students and staff. Secretary Cardona’s National Safe School Reopening Summit highlighted best practices from districts across the country to support safe in-person learning.
 
Vaccination is our leading strategy to end the pandemic, and—combined with the layered mitigation strategies recommended by the CDC—has the greatest potential to allow schools to reopen fully this fall and stay open for in-person learning. That’s why, in March the President prioritized teachers and school staff for access to the COVID vaccine. As a result, almost 90 percent of educators and school staff are now vaccinated. To get more of our students ages 12 and older vaccinated, the President is now calling on school districts nationwide to host at least one pop-up vaccination clinic over the coming weeks and directing pharmacies in the federal pharmacy program to prioritize this and to work with school districts across the country to host vaccination clinics at schools and colleges.
 
Heroic efforts from teachers, parents, and school staff, combined with the Administration’s aggressive vaccination push, has demonstrated that safe in-person learning is possible. Since January, the percentage of K-8 schools offering remote-only instruction decreased from 23 percent in January to only 2 percent in May.
 
However, there is still work to be done. During the pandemic, students of color have been less likely to be enrolled in in-person instruction. Data shows that on average students in remote learning report poorer well-being than those in in-person instruction. A continued reliance on remote learning threatens to further widen disparities. The Administration will continue to address the concerns of families, and provide support to states in creating safe, inclusive, and supportive learning environments.
 
Investing historic resources in equitable reopening
 
With the passage of the American Rescue Plan, the Biden-Harris Administration has invested a historic $130 billion to support schools safely reopening and addressing the needs of students, including $122 billion through the American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARP ESSER). ARP ESSER funding supports efforts to get students back in the classroom safely for in-person learning, to safely keep schools open once students are back, and to address the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of all students. This funding is being used to help schools safely operate, implement high-quality summer learning and enrichment programs, hire nurses and counselors, support the vaccination of students and staff, and invest in other measures to take care of students.
 
Ensuring funds address the needs of students. Districts and states must spend a combined minimum of 25 percent of the state’s total ARP ESSER funds, totaling nearly $30.5 billion, to address the impact of lost instructional time through summer learning or enrichment, extended day instruction, comprehensive afterschool programs, or other evidence-based practices. Funded strategies must also respond to students’ social and emotional needs and account for the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on underserved students. The Administration recognizes that the communities that support our students have a critical understanding of what their students need and are key to ensuring funds have the greatest impact on students. As they put together their plans for the use of funds, states and school districts are required to engage a wide range of stakeholders during the planning process, including educators, school leaders and staff, students, families, civil rights organizations, and stakeholders representing the interests of students with disabilities, English learners, students experiencing homelessness, children in foster care, migratory students, students who are incarcerated and other underserved students.
 
Protecting high-poverty districts from funding cuts. The American Rescue Plan’s ARP ESSER program includes a first-of-its-kind maintenance of equity requirement to ensure that high-poverty school districts and schools are protected in the event of funding cuts. These requirements will ensure that school districts and schools serving a large share of students from low-income backgrounds will not experience disproportionate budget cuts—and that the school districts with the highest poverty levels do not experience any decrease in state per-pupil funding below their pre-pandemic level.
 
Ensuring states continue to fund education. The Department has emphasized the importance of the American Rescue Plan’s maintenance of effort requirement, which ensures that states continue to fulfill their commitments to fund their education systems, and has worked with states to ensure that they meet these requirements. The maintenance of effort requirement helps protect students by making sure that federal pandemic relief funds are used to meet the immediate needs and impacts of the pandemic on students and schools to the greatest extent possible, rather than to supplant general state funding for K-12 education.

Supporting effective implementation. The Department of Education has worked aggressively to support states and school districts in implementing education relief funding. This includes providing resources on how ARP ESSER funds can be used, including to support effective ventilation in schoolsvaccination efforts, creating and expand full-service community schools , hiring nurses and counselors, and providing high-quality summer programs and high-dosage tutoring to students. With critical partners like the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers, the Department launched the Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative to support states providing high-quality summer learning and enrichment. 
 
Stabilizing and ensuring access to child care. High-quality early care and education helps ensure that children can take full advantage of education and training opportunities later in life. The pandemic significantly disrupted the child care sector, threatening access to this critical support and threatening economic security for childcare workers, who are disproportionately women of color. The American Rescue Plan invested $24 billion in stabilizing the child care sector, and is helping to provide this essential industry—which provides vital opportunities for children—with more flexible funding to help more low-income working families access high-quality care, increase compensation for early childhood workers, and help parents to work.   
 
Addressing the needs of students experiencing homelessness. The pandemic increased housing insecurity, and disproportionately impacted the education of students experiencing homelessness, who were less likely to be able to successfully engage in remote learning due to lack of reliable access to the internet. The Department of Education has released all $800 million in American Rescue Plan funds for identifying and addressing the needs of students experiencing homelessness, including by providing wraparound services and support ranging from afterschool to mental health services.
 
Supporting students with disabilities. The pandemic created serious challenges for many students with disabilities, who struggled to access special education and related services according to their individualized services plan. The American Rescue Plan provides support to students with disabilities and infants and toddlers with disabilities through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. To ensure states can deliver the necessary services and supports to young children and youth with disabilities, the American Rescue Plan devotes nearly $2.6 billion in grants to states to support elementary and secondary education students with disabilities, $200 million for preschool children with disabilities, and $250 million for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families.
 
Bolstering Tribal education. The Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) is using $535 million in American Rescue Plan funds to support 183 BIE-funded K-12 schools, providing much-needed financial support to help Tribal communities recover more quickly from the pandemic’s wide-ranging impact.
 
Funding COVID testing. The American Rescue Plan includes $10 billion to support COVID-19 testing in schools. This funding will help to reopen schools, including in communities of color, which have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. 
 
Protecting the rights of students. Protecting the rights of students to equal opportunity is an essential part of ensuring educational equity. The Department of Education has provided resources to school leaders, students, families and other stakeholders to ensure students’ rights are protected, including information about civil rights and school reopening and confronting COVID-19-related harassment against AAPI students. The Department of Education has moved swiftly to implement the President’s Executive Order on Guaranteeing an Educational Environment Free from Discrimination on the Basis of Sex, Including Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity; implement a comprehensive plan to address sexual harassment, including sexual violence, in schools; and make clear that it will enforce Title IX to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including for LGBTQ+ students. The Department has also worked to address the disproportionately high rates of school discipline for students of color and students with disabilities that removes them from the classroom. The Department held a public convening on school discipline in May and launched a major, ongoing effort to address racial, disability-based and other disparities in the administration of school discipline.
 
Closing the digital divide. The American Rescue Plan included $7.2 billion for the E-Rate program, which helps support American schools by funding programs to help ensure K-12 students and teachers have the appropriate internet connections and devices for distance learning, a particular challenge in low-income and rural communities.
 
Supporting nutrition security. It is hard for students to learn successfully when they are experiencing hunger. Black and Latino households face food insecurity at twice the rate of white households. The American Rescue Plan guards against food hardship among students this summer by allowing states to continue the Pandemic-EBT program, which provides grocery benefits to replace meals for students who are eligible for free and reduced priced meals when schools are closed. It also increases SNAP benefits by 15 percent through September 2021, maintaining the increase through the summer, when childhood hunger spikes due to a lack of school meals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture likewise acted to offer flexibility for the 2021-2022 school year by providing waivers that allow schools to serve free meals to all students.  
 
For more information on how President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda builds on this work by investing historic and vitally-needed resources that unlock opportunity for millions of Americans, please see the White House Fact Sheet on How the Biden-Harris Administration is Advancing Educational Equity.