Category Archives: Health Care

On 49th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Biden-Harris Commit to Protecting Women’s Reproductive Rights; HHS Acts

New York City Women’s Rally to protect Roe v. Wade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

On the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris issued a statement asserting their commitment to protecting women’s reproductive freedom:

The constitutional right established in Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago today is under assault as never before. It is a right we believe should be codified into law, and we pledge to defend it with every tool we possess. We are deeply committed to protecting access to health care, including reproductive health care—and to ensuring that this country is not pushed backwards on women’s equality.

In recent years, we have seen efforts to restrict access to reproductive health care increase at an alarming rate. In Texas, Mississippi, and many other states around the country, access to reproductive health care is under attack. These state restrictions constrain the freedom of all women. And they are particularly devastating for those who have fewer options and fewer resources, such as those in underserved communities, including communities of color and many in rural areas.

The Biden-Harris Administration strongly supports efforts to codify Roe, and we will continue to work with Congress on the Women’s Health Protection Act. All people deserve access to reproductive health care regardless of their gender, income, race, zip code, health insurance status, immigration status, disability, or sexual orientation. And the continued defense of this constitutional right is essential to our health, safety, and progress as a nation.

We must ensure that our daughters and granddaughters have the same fundamental rights that their mothers and grandmothers fought for and won on this day, 49 years ago—including leaders like the late Sarah Weddington, whose successful arguments before the Supreme Court led to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

At this pivotal moment, we recommit to strengthening access to critical reproductive health care, defending the constitutional right established by Roe, and protecting the freedom of all people to build their own future.

Watch the Vice President’s Exclusive with Elle Magazine Marking the 49th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

The Vice President recorded a video message reiterating our administration’s commitment to protecting constitutional rights. “Roe v. Wade advanced women’s equality and that case saved women’s lives,” Harris says in the video. Read the Full Exclusive Here

HHS Secretary Becerra Takes Action to Protect Reproductive Health Care

New Task Force Launched on Eve of Roe v. Wade Anniversary

Today, on the eve of the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced the first-ever HHS Intra-agency Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access.

The task force includes subject matter experts from across the department. The HHS Assistant Secretary for Health and the HHS Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs will serve as the co-chairs of this coordinating body. The task force’s primary goal is to facilitate collaborative, innovative, transparent, equitable, and action-oriented approaches to protect and bolster sexual and reproductive health.

“As we commemorate the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we recommit to protecting and strengthening access to reproductive health care, including the right to safe and legal abortion care that the Supreme Court has recognized for decades,” said Secretary Becerra. “Patients have the right to make decisions about their own bodies. In light of restrictive laws across the nation, HHS will evaluate the impact on patients and our communities. That’s why today, I have launched the first Intra-agency Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access. Once again, we are telling health care providers and patients, we have your back.”

“Across America, we must protect access to sexual and reproductive health,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine, MD. “Establishing a new task force dedicated to this critical public health topic will advance policies that improve reproductive health care access within Federal programs and services, eliminate health disparities, and expand access to culturally competent health care services for underserved communities, including people of color, people with disabilities, young people, LGBTQI+ people, and others.”

“Advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights is central to our core global health goals, including our focus on addressing health inequities and expanding access to universal health coverage,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs Loyce Pace. “In order to build back better in the U.S. and around the world, we must ensure that all people can access high quality health care, including sexual and reproductive health care services.”

HHS has taken several meaningful actions under the Biden-Harris Administration to protect and bolster reproductive health, rights, and justice, including:

  • The Department issued a new final rule for Title X, the nation’s family planning program, to ensure access to equitable, affordable, client-centered, quality family planning services.
  • The Department announced $6.6 million through the Title X family planning program to address the demand for family planning services where restrictive laws and policies have impacted reproductive health access, or in states where there is a lack of or limited Title X access.
  • The Department has advanced maternal health priorities, including expanding access to postpartum Medicaid coverage, rural health care services, and implicit bias training.
  • The Department has issued guidance on both nondiscrimination requirements of the Church Amendments protecting health care providers through its Office for Civil Rights and providers’ legal obligations and protections under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to provide medical treatment to a pregnant patient who presents to the emergency department regardless of conflicting state laws or mandates that might seek to prevent such treatment.

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 Administration Announces Actions to Address the Health Effects of Military Exposures

On Veterans Day 2021, the Biden Administration announced new actions to address health effects of military exposures on veterans © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

On Veterans Day 2021, the Biden Administration announced new actions to address health effects of military exposures on veterans. The White House provided a fact sheet outlining new initiatives to address health impacts of military service:

Exposure to contaminants and environmental hazards poses a major health concern for veterans of all generations. There are also gaps and delays in the scientific evidence demonstrating conclusive links between known exposures and health impacts, leaving many veterans without access to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and high-quality treatment to address significant health conditions. For example, it took decades to provide access to compensatory benefits and health care to many Vietnam era veterans for conditions presumed to be related to Agent Orange exposure. For the newest generation of veterans, concerns about burn pits and other exposures continue to mount. While the federal government has taken some steps to address these issues, including implementing registries to track veterans exposed to potentially hazardous substances, the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to doing more to enable timely access to services and benefits for those potentially exposed to hazardous materials.

As we mark Veterans Day and honor those who have worn the uniform of the United States, the Administration is moving forward to support our service members and veterans who may have encountered environmental hazards by:

Developing and testing a model for establishing service connection. It can be difficult for veterans to prove connection for disabilities resulting from environmental hazards. To mitigate this difficulty, VA may create presumptions of exposure in order to establish service connection for various chronic conditions when the evidence of an environmental exposure and the associated health risks are strong in the aggregate but hard to prove on an individual basis. In order to deliver benefits more quickly to veterans who developed disabilities due to exposure to environmental hazards and to lower the evidentiary burden on such veterans, VA developed a new model to accelerate the decision-making process to consider adding new presumptive conditions. This new model takes into consideration not only consensus reports from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, but also includes analyses of data from other sources as well, including data from the Veterans Benefits Administration and the Veterans Health Administration. The new model relies upon a multi-faceted scale to evaluate the strength of scientific and other evidence and allow VA to make faster policy decisions on key exposures. VA successfully applied this model to examine the association between exposures to particulate matter and three respiratory conditions, as announced last May.

Adding new presumptive conditions. In August, VA began processing disability claims for asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis based on presumed exposure to particulate matter. Veterans who served in the Southwest Asia theater of operations and other areas and who developed these conditions within 10 years of military service are now eligible to apply for disability benefits and access to VA health care. This rulemaking was based upon application of the new presumptive model and involved careful review of a study conducted by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, as well as other evidence assessed by VA subject matter experts.

Applying new model to review evidence of service connection for rare respiratory cancers and constrictive bronchiolitis. VA will further test the new presumptive model to assess potential associations between military environmental exposures and constrictive bronchiolitis, lung cancers, and rare respiratory cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx or trachea and salivary gland-type tumors of the trachea. The President has directed VA to complete the review of rare cancers and provide recommendations about new presumptions of service connection within 90 days. Based on the results of this review, the Administration will consider initiating additional rulemaking. Once the process is complete, the Administration will continue to test this model on additional health conditions and exposures to ensure more timely review and consideration of potential service connection.

Improving data on individual exposures. The Individual Longitudinal Exposure Record (ILER) is the primary Department of Defense and VA application to track, record, and assess environmental and occupational exposure to potentially hazardous substances. Currently, ILER is not scheduled to reach full operating capability until September 2023. To ensure full capability of the ILER, DoD plans to expand and accelerate the development schedule—and add additional data—enabling more comprehensive information on health risks of potential exposures to be more rapidly incorporated into service member and veterans medical care and benefit decisions.

Raising awareness of VA benefits related to military exposures. Many veterans are unaware of their eligibility for benefits and services related to potential military exposures. In addition, some claims adjudicators may not have up-to-date awareness of recent policies related to conditions newly presumed to be service-connected. In October 2021, VA launched an outreach campaign to inform service members and veterans about eligibility and benefits related to chronic disabilities that may be due to military exposures while in service. This includes efforts to embed educational and outreach materials into the Transition Assistance Programs (TAP) and as part of the Solid Start program, which reaches out to transitioning service members at regular intervals during the first year following their military separation. VA will also initiate new public service announcements and live events to encourage early and regular engagement with VA and other federal agencies for benefits, health care, and other services. VA also plans to provide refresher trainings for all claims processors, share information related to military exposures, and host a series of Q&A sessions related to implementation of the new presumptive disabilities that were implemented this summer. VA will also revise Frequently Asked Question materials and call scripts to ensure that front line employees are able to better assist veterans through the claims process. 

Expanding training for VA and non-VA providers. Veterans often find that their providers and compensation and pension examiners are not well-trained to understand or treat veterans’ exposure concerns. To address this issue, VA has completed a contract with the American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM) to provide a five-module certificate training program in military environmental exposures. This will provide a basic level of competence for all VA- and non-VA providers across the nation that will help better treat veterans with concerns about toxic exposures. VA will require all providers to complete the first module of this training for an entry-level understanding of the health outcomes of military exposures and encourage the remaining four modules for certification.

Establishing network of specialized providers and call center. Veterans with concerns about the health outcomes of military exposures experience inconsistent care to address these specific issues, especially outside of VA. Beginning in 2022, VA will launch VET-HOME, The Veterans Exposure Team-Health Outcomes of Military Exposures. VET-HOME will consist of two interconnected parts: a call center for veterans and providers, and a nationwide network of specialists. Veterans with questions about environmental exposures will call into a central location and be guided through the registry exam or environmental exposure process. They would then be referred to one of 40 environmental health providers across the United States who would use a telemedicine platform to assess and if necessary refer the veteran to a VA facility to complete any specialty testing, like a pulmonary function test or other lab work. Providers with questions on military exposures would be referred to one the 40 military environmental heath subject matter experts. The results of the consultation would be shared with the veteran’s primary care doctor, helping to deliver better care to the veteran.

Extending Eligibility Period for VA Health Care. Some Veterans do not have concerns about their health until several years after deployment or leaving service. At present, VA allows veterans to receive free VA health care for up to 5 years after discharge or release for any condition related to service in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or Operation New Dawn (OND) in Iraq. This is called an “enhanced eligibility period.” To ensure that veterans who served in these conflicts have access to health care from VA, the Administration will call upon Congress to implement a change to the statute to enable a longer enhanced enrollment period for the 3 million veterans who deployed to support recent combat operations.

Taken together, these actions will improve our understanding of the health effects of military-related exposures, educate providers and veterans about these exposures, and provide timelier access to health services and benefits for individuals who were exposed. The Administration will continue to prioritize efforts to support veterans who were exposed to environmental hazards during their military service. At the same time, the Administration will work with Congress on its encouraging ongoing efforts to ensure we are able to quickly and fairly recognize additional presumptions of service-connected disabilities, in order to live up to our sacred obligation to provide veterans the care they have earned.

Thousands Join NYC March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice

Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features, news-photos-features.com

Thousands gathered in Foley Square, in front of the federal court house, to hear calls for justice, equal rights and full personhood for women in face of the assault on abortion rights from Texas and dozens of states and the right wing majority Supreme Court’s deference and then marched up to Washington Square Park, bringing their messages of “Save Roe” “Keep Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries”, “Hands off Our Privates” “We Won’t Go Back” and “Ruth Sent Us.” (See: NYC Joins Millions Across Country in Rallies, Marches for Women’s Reproductive Freedom)

Here are some highlights:

We Demand Abortion Justice”. Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“I Love Someone Who Has Had an Abortion.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Break All the Chains.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“No Going Back.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Protect Our Rights.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Pro Roe”. Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“We Are Not Your Incubators.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Safe Accessible Abortions for Everyone.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Baby.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“My Body. My Choice.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Resistance Revival Chorus sings for Reproductive Freedom. Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

NYC Joins Millions Across Country in Rallies, Marches for Women’s Reproductive Freedom

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features, news-photos-features.com

“Remember Roe v Wade.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Thousands gathered in Foley Square, in front of the federal court house, to protest for justice, equal rights and full personhood for women in face of the assault on abortion rights from Texas and dozens of states and the right wing majority Supreme Court’s deference. The timing was key, just days before the Supreme Court begins its session in which it will hear a Mississippi case banning abortions after 15 weeks. Texas SB8 bans abortions after six-weeks, the theoretical point when a fetus has a heartbeat, and deputizes vigilantes and bounty hunters to enforce it against anyone even suspected of aiding a woman who gets an abortion and collect $10,000.

“Ruth Sent Me.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rana Abdelhamid, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Rana Abdelhamid: “This is not about religion, not about life. They called us ‘hysterical’ for warning about the effort to overturn Roe v. Wade. It’s time for congress to do what’s right and protect our constitutional right to abortion. End the filibuster. We know what it is to have our bodies policed. Abolition Justice!

Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU: We stand with women in Texas, Mississippi and all over the country. Abortion Justice. Reproductive Justice. Make New York a safe haven, close every loophole in state law, so anyone can come for reproductive health. We won’t turn back. We will be at every polling place in every election. Hold elected leaders accountable.

Heidi Sieck, Vote Pro Chooce, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Heidi Sieck, Vote Pro Choice: Reproductive freedom and abortion justice are at stake. Small, massively overfunded group of white supremacist, Christian conservatives have invested in state legislatures, built an anti-choice infrastructure. They stole two Supreme Court seats. That changes now. Over 80 percent support reproductive freedom. Pass the Women’s Health Protection Act (that passed the House, but not the senate), end the filibuster, rebalance Supreme Court. In November, 2021, 40,000 seats are up for election. Every ingle elected has a role to protect reproductive rights. Not just congress but state and local. Run for office, donate to VoteProChoice.us.

Batala NY, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney: They have been chipping away at abortion rights for years, but now they are bulldozing our rights into the ground.Last week, chaired House Oversight Committee on Texas SB8, when three Congresswomen told their abortion stories. Women are speaking out. In December, Mississippi comes before the Supreme Court. For my entire time in Congress we hadn’t had a pro-choice majority, until this year. We passed the Women’s Health Protection Act, codifying Roe. It has to pass in the Senate. We could pass it except for the filibuster. We have to carve out an exception. There is no democracy if women cannot control their own bodies, make their own reproduction choices. It is so outrageous, I can’t believe we are still fighting for this.

Brita Filter, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Brita Filter: Abortion rights are LGBTQ rights.

“My Body, My Business.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Congressman Jerry Nadler, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Congressman Jerry Nadler, who, over 50 years ago, lobbied the New York State Assembly to legalize abortion: It’s been 30 days since women were stripped of their constitutional rights, their freedom to make their own decisions of their lives, their bodies. That’s 30 days too many.

Amsi, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Amsi: The battle for reproductive rights is not new. It’s been long, hard, frustrating.

Pascale Bernard, Planned Parenthood of New York City, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Pascale Bernard, Planned Parenthood of New York City: History is repeating. We have been here before. Enough is enough. Women in Texas are having to drive to Oklahoma, having to choose between paying for an abortion or feeding their children. People are scared. Justice Ginsburg told us to dissent, she left a roadmap to protect reproductive rights. We are lucky in New York, but we nee dto close loopholes, we need an abortion fund so women can come to New York for care, for safety.

Cathy Rojas, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Cathy Rojas, a teacher and candidate for NYC mayor running as a Socialist: We need to build a sustainable people-powered movement ion New York City, In Texas, where people were freezing and is one of worst states to live – hunger, poverty of children, maternal mortality – they are leading the attack on abortion rights. So when claim is about protecting life, is really about protecting profit over lives.The right wing don’t give a damn about lives. Instead of dealing with the real crises are attacking abortion rights. Congress is ineffective at passing laws for basic necessities, but quick to bail out banks and the ultra rich. They always find time to attack women, LGBTQ and the vulnerable. This is not just about a bad law, but the whole damn system – the bigots, the politicians for hire, the courts up to the Supreme Court, the corporate control of the media, the police and ICE. I am fed up with capitalism. We need systemic change.

“Legalize Abortion, Once and For All.” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
The Band Betty, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Band Betty: We are one-fourth through the 21st century. I don’t see flying cars or universal health care. I see women being told to be ashamed. Until women have equal rights in the Constitution, we will continue to see how the state commands our fate.

Rev. Nori Rost of New York Society of Ethical Culture, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Rev. Nori Rost, New York Society of Ethical Culture: They are “protecting” a fetus with a heartbeat? How about fighting for people who already have a heart beat. Anti-choice, anti-woman is nothing new – it is about subjugation, oppression. We will not give up, shut up, slow down, sit down until all people have agency over their own body. We are among millions marching as one, we will not be stopped.

Jeannie Park, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Jeannie Park (Warriors in the Garden): Abortion bans have no humanity, no exception for rape, incenst. 3 million have experienced rape, the next 3 million will be forced to carry to term. The penalty to abort is more severe than to rape. Women’s bodies are more regulated than guns. What does it mean to be pro life if you only value certain lives. Encouraging vigilantes, bounty hunters is too lcose to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. I will not go back.

Miriam Elhajli, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Miriam Elhajli sings a song 100 years old, “Wagoner’s Lad,” and sounding so much like Joan Baez who sang it:  “Oh, hard is the fortune of all woman kind/She’s always controlled, she’s always confined/Controlled by her parents until she’s a wife/A slave to her husband the rest of her life”

Carol Jenkins, ERA Coalition, Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Carol Jenkins, Co-President and CEO of The ERA Coalition and the Fund for Women’s Equality: The Equal Rights Amendment has been around for 100 years; it has been 50 years since passed in Congress, now 38 states have ratified it, so could be published in the Constitution. The only hold up is a time limit, put into the introduction, not the amendment. The root of sexism, misogyny, and racism is in the Constitution, written by slaveholding white males. Everything we’ve been doing since has been to repair what was left out of the Constitution. We have to put the ERA on list of things, so we don’t have to keep repairing the Constitution. Congress has removed the timeline twice, it is now in the Senate. We are done having to beg for rights, gather in the streets and ask “please”. Go to ERACoalition.org.

Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC organizers Rose Baseil Massa and Juliet Aguerre, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Abortion is a Human Right!” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“My Body, My Choice,” Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom and Justice, NYC, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

See next: THOUSANDS JOIN NYC MARCH FOR REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM AND JUSTICE

____________________________

© 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