A valid concern Americans should hold is that public health has been so politicized, so weaponized that leaders on all levels of government – federal, state, and local – who are responsible for the welfare of their constituents, along with the weakening of their ability to take action to protect public health by the radical rightwing extremist judiciary put into place by McConnell and Trump, that we will not be informed when there is a new threat, that they will take action to quarantine, mandate masks and vaccinations to prevent hospital systems from being overwhelmed, and certainly, that concern that there won’t be the resources, the expertise, the means, infrastructure or the fortitude to protect us from the next pandemic. And the next pandemic is certain to take place, not in 100 years, but pushed forward by the changes to the ecosystem because of human-caused climate change.
More than one million died of COVID, millions more are suffering long-COVID; it is estimated that 70 percent died needlessly, avoidably, while Biden’s swift actions to set up a comprehensive vaccination-delivery program (free tests, free masks, free vaccinations), saved 2 million lives. With this in mind, the Biden-Harris Administration is taking steps, setting up the mechanisms to obtain vaccines, treatments and tests – while Florida Governor and presidential wannabe Ron DeSantis has actually made it illegal for Floridians to have a public response to a pandemic and Congressional Republicans show no interest whatsoever in allocating the funds to save lives. (Trump had dismantled the pandemic response infrastructure set up by the Obama Administration. Here is a fact sheet form the White House on its launch of Office of Pandemic Preparedness and Response Policy: –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
The Biden-Harris Administration has made historic progress on our nation’s ability to manage COVID-19 so that it no longer meaningfully disrupts the way we live our lives. Under President Biden’s leadership, the Administration has taken significant steps to ensure all individuals have continued access to lifesaving protections such as vaccines, treatments, and tests, and that the nation is well prepared to manage the risks of COVID-19 or other causes of potential pandemics in the future.
As part of the President’s commitment to ensure that our country is more prepared for a pandemic than we were when he took office, the Administration is standing up the Office of Pandemic Preparedness and Response Policy (OPPR). This will be a permanent office in the Executive Office of the President (EOP) charged with leading, coordinating, and implementing actions related to preparedness for, and response to, known and unknown biological threats or pathogens that could lead to a pandemic or to significant public health-related disruptions in the United States. OPPR will take over the duties of the current COVID-19 Response Team and Mpox Team at the White House and will continue to coordinate and develop policies and priorities related to pandemic preparedness and response.
To lead this work, the President announced that Major General (ret) Paul Friedrichs will serve as the inaugural Director of OPPR and Principal Advisor on Pandemic Preparedness and Response as of August 7, 2023. Maj. Gen. (ret) Friedrichs’ unparalleled experience makes him the right person to lead this office. He is currently Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Global Health Security and Biodefense at the National Security Council (NSC). Maj. Gen. (ret) Friedrichs previously served as Joint Staff Surgeon at the Pentagon, where he coordinated all issues related to health services, provided medical advice to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and served as medical adviser to the Department of Defense (DoD) Covid-19 Task Force.
The Office of Pandemic Preparedness and Response Policy will:
Coordinate the Administration’s domestic response to public health threats that have pandemic potential, or may cause significant disruption, and strengthen domestic pandemic preparedness. This includes ongoing work to address potential public health outbreaks and threats from COVID-19, Mpox, polio, avian and human influenza, and RSV.
Drive and coordinate federal science and technology efforts related to pandemic preparedness. Specifically, OPPR will oversee efforts to develop, manufacture, and procure the next generation of medical countermeasures, including leveraging emerging technologies and working with HHS on next generation vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 and other public health threats. During the height of the pandemic, the Biden-Harris Administration made historic investments in COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments that were made widely available. OPPR will continue to leverage these investments as it drives future progress in combatting COVID-19 and other public health threats.
Develop and provide periodic reports to Congress. As required by statute, OPPR will develop and provide to Congress a biennial Preparedness Review and Report and Preparedness Outlook Report every five years.
Major General (ret) Paul Friedrichs, Inaugural Director of OPPR and Principal Advisor on Pandemic Preparedness and Response
Major General Friedrichs is currently Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Global Health Security and Biodefense at the National Security Council (NSC). Prior to joining the NSC, Dr. Friedrichs most recently served as the Joint Staff Surgeon and the medical advisor to the Department of Defense (DoD) COVID-19 Task Force. Throughout his career he has worked closely with Federal, State, Tribal, local, and territorial government partners, as well as industry and academic counterparts and has been active in multiple professional medical societies. Dr. Friedrichs has also overseen the DoD global patient evacuation system, supporting global medical care and numerous interagency domestic and global disaster responses. He led the DoD Task Force which developed plans to implement high reliability medical principles across DoD and stood up the Air Force’s first medical analytics capabilities. Over the course of his 37-year career, he has led military hospitals and regional and global health care systems, published multiple medical papers, and consistently sought opportunities to partner with colleagues to improve health care delivery and preparedness. As the United States’ representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Committee of Military Medical Chiefs, he worked closely with many of America’s closest allies and partners throughout the pandemic and in developing medical support to the Ukrainian military.
Dr. Friedrichs is a board-certified physician who has cared for hundreds of patients in combat and managed broad domestic and global public health threats. He has spent all of his career in public service, having first received his commission through Reserve Officer Training Corps in 1986 and rising to Major General in 2023.
President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda Has Accelerated American Zero Emission Vehicles Production and Positioned the U.S. to Lead the Clean Vehicles Future
The Biden-Harris Administration announced new proposed vehicle pollution standards to make all vehicles, including gas-powered cars and heavy-duty trucks, cleaner and more efficient. The proposed standards would protect public health by cutting nearly 10 billion tons of CO2 emissions – twice the annual U.S. emissions today. They would also save consumers on average $12,000 over the lifetime of a vehicle. And they would strengthen American energy security by reducing reliance on 20 billion barrels of imported oil.
Cars and truck manufacturers have made clear that the future of transportation is electric. The market is moving. Since President Biden took office, the private sector – including the American auto industry – has invested more than $120 billion in the American-made electric vehicle and battery supply chain. The United States can seize this moment to secure American leadership in the global race to a clean transportation future, or let competitors like China out-compete us for the jobs and investments building that future.
As a car enthusiast and self-proclaimed car guy, President Biden is seizing the moment. His Investing in America agenda is expanding domestic manufacturing and accelerating adoption of zero-emission vehicles (ZEV), including battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and fuel cell electric vehicles. This is bringing good-paying jobs back home and putting the United States on a bold path to out-compete China in securing the jobs and investments of the future.
The pollution standards proposed today by the Biden-Harris Administration will:
Spur Adoption of Pollution-Reducing Technology for Nearly All Road Vehicles
The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing two new rules to improve public health and combat climate change that will also lower costs for families and create good-paying jobs. The first rule would target emissions of greenhouse gases and smog- and soot-forming pollutants from passenger cars, vans, and light trucks. The second rule would update vehicle emissions standards for greenhouse gas emissions from buses, freight trucks, and other heavy-duty vehicles. This rule builds on the final standards that EPA released in December 2022 for criteria pollutant emissions from heavy-duty vehicles.
The proposed updates would:
Protect Public Health. Through 2055, EPA projects that the proposed standards would avoid nearly 10 billion tons of CO2 emissions — equivalent to more than twice the annual U.S. CO2 emissions in 2022.
Lower Consumer Costs. By leveraging accelerated adoption of technologies that reduce fuel and maintenance costs alongside pollution, the proposed standards would save the average consumer $12,000 over the lifetime of the vehicle. The proposals would also result in approximately $12 billion in reduced reliance on oil imports. Rapid innovation in the automotive sector has driven down the cost of emissions-reducing technology and put us closer to a clean transportation sector.
Accelerate the Clean Vehicle Transition in Technology-Neutral Way. The EPA’s approach is technology-neutral, meaning that better-designed gas vehicles, hybrids, fuel cell vehicles, and other innovations could all be used to meet stricter standards. But with EV technology getting better and cheaper every day, and consumer demand rising rapidly, many manufacturers would likely rely on fully electric vehicles for compliance. EPA estimates that by 2032, if finalized, the proposed rules could result in electrification of 67% of new sedans, crossovers, SUVs, and light trucks; 50% of new vocational vehicles (such as buses and garbage trucks); 35% of new short-haul freight tractors; and 25% of new long-haul freight tractors.
Reinforce President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda to Continue Building a Clean Transportation Future Made in America
These standards build on the generational investments secured by the Biden-Harris Administration that will ensure our nation’s transportation systems are clean, affordable, equitable, and Made in America. In the first year of his Administration, President Biden set a goal that at least 50 percent of all new passenger cars and light trucks sold in 2030 be zero-emission vehicles. A year later, President Biden joined countries around the world in targeting that 100 percent of all new medium- and heavy-duty vehicles sold in 2040 be zero-emission vehicles, with an interim 30 percent sales target for these vehicles in 2030.
The United States is making strong progress towards these goals. Under President Biden’s watch, the number of available electric models have doubled while the number of electric car sales have tripled. There are over 130,000 public chargers now available across the country – with all 50 states now implementing a historic federal investment to build a new national charging network. The iconic yellow school bus is going green and the U.S. Postal Service is shifting to fully electric. The private sector has committed more than $120 billion into the American-made electric vehicle and battery supply chain in the last two years alone. U.S. capacity to source the critical materials and inputs for this supply chain is also rapidly expanding. Through partnerships with unions and industry, the Administration is lifting up the workers who represent America’s competitive edge – and is ready to take on and tap into the massive economic opportunity embedded in this shift.
This extraordinary progress is propelled in large part by public and private investments made under President Biden’s leadership, including:
Nearly $25 billion through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support clean transportation, including by building a national network of EV chargers and alternative-fuel stations; ensuring domestic manufacturers have the materials they need to make EV batteries; and funding clean transit and clean school buses, with priority for underserved communities.
$6 billion through the Inflation Reduction Act to directly support the clean-vehicle transition, including by extending loans to manufacture clean vehicles and their components in the United States; retooling domestic production lines for clean vehicles; and funding for Tribal, state, and local governments deploy clean heavy-duty vehicles, especially in nonattainment areas.
More than $120 billion of private investments in EVs and batteries in the United States since President Biden has taken office.
President Biden has also acted to ensure a seamless clean-vehicle transition that benefits all Americans, including by:
Securing tax credits that make new and previously owned clean vehicles more affordable to working families.
Setting national standards to make charging EVs convenient and reliable for all Americans – no matter what car you drive or which state you charge in.
Encouraging companies, nonprofits, and others to expand community EV charging, increase consumer understanding about different types of clean transportation, and help consumers access clean-transportation benefits.
Releasing a Rural EV toolkit to help ensure all Americans, regardless of where they live, can benefit from the lower operating costs, reduced maintenance needs, and improved performance that EVs provide.
Launching pathbreaking partnerships, like the Department of Energy’s agreement with AFL-CIO to launch a national workforce development strategy for lithium-battery manufacturing, including pilot programs to train battery manufacturing workers and bolster the domestic battery supply chain.
Through the White House Talent Pipeline Challenge, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) has certified 20,000 electricians through Registered Apprenticeships like the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP).
Providing a clear pathway for a continued rise in EV sales and protecting future generations from the impacts of climate change is a win-win for all Americans.
Administration focused efforts on making vaccinations, testin, and treatments even more widely available and accessible as COVID-19 cases increase
The Biden Administration announced a plan to stay ahead of an increase in COVID-19 cases this winter. While COVID-19 is not the disruptive force it once was, the virus continues to evolve, and cases are on the rise again as families are spending more time indoors and gathering for the holidays. Throughout the COVID-19 response, this Administration has been prepared for whatever the virus throws our way – and this moment is no different.
The Administration’s COVID-19 Winter Preparedness Plan includes:
Expanding easy access to free COVID-19 testing options in the winter. COVID-19 testing is an important tool to help mitigate and slow the spread of the virus. The Administration is encouraging Americans to use at-home COVID-19 tests when they have symptoms of COVID-19, before and after traveling for the holidays, or visiting indoors with immunocompromised or vulnerable individuals. The Administration has made free COVID-19 testing widely available and easily accessible. This includes providing over 15,000 free community testing sites nationwide, covering over-the-counter tests under Medicare, and requiring all health insurance plans to cover eight free at-home tests per month per individual, which can be easily accessed at local pharmacies and online. Ahead of continued increases in cases, the Administration is taking new action to ensure that all Americans have easy and free access to COVID-19 tests in the winter months.
Making free at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests available through COVIDTests.gov. The Administration is announcing that COVIDTests.gov is open for a limited round of ordering this winter. Starting today, all U.S. households can order a total of four at-home COVID-19 tests that will be mailed directly to them for free. In the absence of Congress providing additional funding for the nation’s COVID-19 response, the Administration has acted with its limited existing funding to add more at-home COVID-19 tests to the nation’s stockpile and support this round of ordering ahead of continued increases in COVID-19 cases. Orders for this round of testing will begin to ship starting the week of December 19th and continue in the weeks ahead. The Administration will also make tests available to individuals who are blind or have low-vision through this program. People who have difficulty accessing the internet or need additional support placing an order can call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489) to get help in English, Spanish, and more than 150 other languages – 8:00 a.m. to midnight E.T., seven days a week. For more information, people can visit www.COVIDTests.gov.
Distributing more free tests to Americans at trusted locations. In addition to continuing to support access to free COVID-19 tests in schools, community health centers, rural health clinics, long-term care facilities, and other convenient locations, the Administration is announcing additional distribution programs to reach people with free, at-home tests. This includes distributing free at-home tests at more than 6,500 Department of Housing and Urban Development-assisted rental housing properties serving seniors; and expanding a program to distribute free at-home tests to as many as 500 major food banks for them to distribute to people in their communities.
Making vaccinations and treatments readily available to all Americans as cases rise. As we have throughout the pandemic, the federal government continues to leverage all capabilities to support state, local, territorial, and Tribal communities to prepare for, prevent, and respond to increased incidence of COVID-19. That includes working with states, medical providers, businesses, and other groups to expand awareness about updated COVID-19 vaccines, highly effective treatments, and resources to stand up additional vaccination sites and other delivery options to make it easier and more convenient to get vaccinations and treatments.
Offering resources and assistance to increase vaccinations and respond to a possible surge. Today, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra is sending a letter to all governors outlining key actions that he would like state leaders to take as they prepare for increased cases and hospitalizations this winter, and reminding them of federal supports that are available for their COVID-19 responses. This includes setting up additional mobile and pop-up vaccination sites, surge testing sites, as well as Test to Treat sites where Americans can not only get tested for free, but also can get prescribed and dispensed safe, effective COVID-19 treatments right on site if they test positive and treatment is appropriate for them.
Collaborating with communities to open pop-up and/or mobile vaccination sites. Communities across the nation are answering the call to expand vaccine access through the increased presence of mobile and pop-up vaccination clinics. This includes efforts in Los Angeles County to open up to 800 pop-up clinics per week; expanded use of mobile vaccination, testing, and treatment units, as well as outbound vaccine and treatment calls to people age 65 and older, at-home administration of vaccines and free home delivery of treatments in New York City; and an increase in Chicago’s at-home vaccine administration program, which provides vaccines for up to 10 people per visit in their place of residence. The Administration has been engaging jurisdictions on the availability of federal resources to continue and increase these efforts, including through use of flexible single-dose vials, and will continue to engage state, local, Tribal, and territorial leaders in the weeks ahead.
Getting additional resources to community health centers and aging and disability networks to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts. The Administration for Community Living is awarding $125 million to support community-based organizations in the aging and disability networks to hold accessible vaccine clinics and provide in-home vaccinations, transportation, and other supportive services to increase COVID-19 vaccinations for older adults and people with disabilities.
Preparing personnel and resources. Together with states, we will monitor the impacts of variants, cases, and hospitalizations on our communities and – should it become necessary – escalate our support to states and communities. The Administration stands ready with federal capabilities to support urgent needs as they present, including through clinical staffing, personal protective equipment and supplies, and technical assistance.
Readying clinical personnel for deployment as needed to support jurisdictions. The Administration continues to make federal teams and medical personnel available to alleviate strains on hospitals and health care systems through the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS’) Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR), the U.S. Public Health Services Corps, and the Department of Defense. Federal agencies can also help offer support for states to take actions, such as providing more flexibility to hospitals balancing patients and staffing, exercising telemedicine options, pursuing staffing options such as contracts, and employing the National Guard to help alleviate strains on health and medical facilities.
Pre-positioning critical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile. Tanks to the President’s leadership, the U.S. government has hundreds of millions of N-95 masks, billions of gloves, tens of millions of gowns, and over 100,000 ventilators stored in the Strategic National Stockpile—all ready to ship out if and when states need them. The Administration has pre-positioned these supplies in strategic locations across the country so that we can send them to states that need them immediately.
Closely monitoring emerging variants and assessing their potential impacts on testing, treatments and vaccines. This winter, federal agencies will continue to monitor Omicron subvariants and the spread of any other emerging variants of the virus in the United States. This includes genomic surveillance of specimens from representative populations to detect new variants and to monitor trends in currently circulating variants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks and reports on genomic sequencing results from a variety of sources, including public health and commercial laboratories. CDC also recently expanded variant reporting from additional sources, including wastewater and through international air travel. The Traveler-Based Genomic Surveillance Program currently collects samples from international air travelers arriving from more than 25 countries at several major U.S. airports. This data, which provides an early warning system for detection of variants and trends over time, is publicly shared on the CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker.
Focusing on protecting the highest-risk Americans. As we have done since the beginning of the Administration, we remain focused on meeting the needs and protecting Americans at highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19. This includes residents of nursing homes and other congregate care facilities, where we know vaccination rates remain too low. This also includes older Americans, individuals who are immunocompromised, disabled individuals, and others who face a higher risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.
Releasing a winter playbook for nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The Administration will release a winter playbook for administrators of nursing homes and long-term care facilities that summarizes the actions these facilities should take to reduce serious illness, prevent hospitalizations and deaths, and minimize disruptions in their communities. Nursing homes often serve residents at great risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, and congregate care settings have an increased risk of spread of respiratory infections. All facilities should take concrete actions to ensure that every resident is educated on and offered an updated COVID-19 shot; that every resident who tests positive for COVID-19 is evaluated and offered treatment; and that every facility is taking steps to improve its indoor air quality.
Expanding the pool of providers that may administer COVID-19 vaccinations. In addition to working with their partners, staff at nursing homes will now be able to administer COVID-19 vaccines to all residents. HHS will work with states to launch teams and use partner with their Quality Improvement Organizations (QIOs), home health agencies, and Emergency Medical Technicians to deliver vaccines to residents of long-term care facilities. On December 1, 2022, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) also added COVID-19 vaccination rates of health care staff and the residents at these facilities to the “Measures under Consideration” list, the list of measures it will potentially consider for certain Medicare quality payment programs, reinforcing its commitment to increased vaccination and improving outcomes for patients.
Reaching out to governors on nursing home vaccinations. In Secretary Becerra’s letter to governors reminding them of available federal COVID-19 supports, he also highlighted how their states are performing as compared to their peers on vaccinating residents of long-term care facilities, and asked governors for their assistance and partnership in increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates for long-term care residents and staff. CMS leadership will also be reaching out to the jurisdictions with the lowest vaccination rates at these long-term care facilities to remind them of what additional steps they can take to increase vaccination rates among seniors and long-term care facility residents.
Encouraging hospitals to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to patients before discharge.HHS leadership, including Secretary Becerra, has called upon hospitals through direct outreach to vaccinate their unvaccinated patients or make sure they are up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations before they are discharged, especially if they are heading to a nursing home.
Expanding access to high-quality masks in communities. In January 2022, HHS made up to 400 million N-95 respirators from the Strategic National Stockpile available through tens of thousands of locations including pharmacies and grocery stores, so Americans could have convenient, free access to high-quality masks. About 270 million masks were sent out as part of this initiative, with many still available in stores nationwide. To expand access to these high-quality masks, HHS will offer guidance to participating pharmacies and grocery stores on how they can to work with local health clinics, aging and disability networks, community-based organizations, and health departments to distribute these masks more widely, so that any spare inventory can be utilized through distribution to even more locations.
Ensuring that every individual has a plan for COVID-19 this winter. With updated COVID-19 vaccines, at-home tests, and effective oral antiviral treatments widely available, the Administration encourages every individual American to have a plan for how to prevent and respond to COVID-19 this winter. CDC has launched a COVID-19 Personal Action Plan, an easy-to-use guide for individuals, caregivers, and clinicians that helps guide individuals through making a plan for where to access free tests, the location of their closest Test to Treat site, and what to ask their provider on treatments if they test positive. The Personal Action Plan helps lay these steps out in an easy-to-use template so that all Americans – especially those at highest risk for severe illness – can decrease the risk of COVID-19 and, if they become infected, have a plan to quickly seek out treatment and avoid its worst outcomes.
A new study out today from the Commonwealth Fund shows that President Biden’s relentless efforts to get Americans vaccinated saved millions of American lives. Our vaccination campaign saved 2.2 million American lives, prevented 17 million hospitalizations, prevented 66 million COVID-19 cases, and avoided $900 billion in health care costs.
This is the result of the Biden Administration’s efforts to use every tool to make vaccinations easy and convenient for every American, Congress providing us the vital resources we needed, and the American people stepping up and doing their part.
We mounted a historic vaccination effort and invested in tests and treatments – empowering Americans with more tools than ever before to protect themselves. Together, we’ve spared millions of families the immeasurable loss that too many others have suffered, and turned unthinkable pain into extraordinary purpose and progress.
Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress are now holding up critical funding we need to make even more progress – to save even more lives. Make no mistake: Inaction will leave our nation less prepared for any future surges and variants. It will mean fewer vaccines, treatments, and tests for the American people. This is deeply disappointing – and it should be unacceptable to every American. We’ve worked too hard and come too far to leave ourselves and our economy vulnerable to an unpredictable virus. The virus is not waiting on Congress to negotiate. Congress must act with urgency.
Website will Feature a New Test-to-Treat Locator Tool to Help People Access the Over 2,000 Locations that Offer COVID-19 Tests and Antiviral Pills at One Convenient Location
Administration Continues to Urge Congress to Provide Funding Immediately to Help Keep These Life-Saving Protections Readily Available to All
Today, the Biden Administration is launching COVID.gov, a new one-stop shop website to help all people in the United States gain even better access to lifesaving tools like vaccines, tests, treatments, and masks, as well as get the latest updates on COVID-19 in their area. The Administration has worked over the past 14 months to set up over 90,000 vaccination sites, make more than 400 million high-quality masks available for free, send free tests to peoples’ homes, and stand up new test-to-treat sites where people can get tested and receive life-saving antivirals all in one place. Now, with a click of a button, people will be able to find where to access all of these tools, as well as receive the latest CDC data on the level of COVID-19 in their community.
As part of COVID.gov, a new Test-to-Treat locator will help people access pharmacies and community health centers across the nation where people can get tested for COVID-19 and receive appropriate treatments if they need them. President Biden announced the Test-to-Treat initiative in his State of the Union address earlier this month. Since that time, the Administration has already launched over 2,000 of these sites, plus more than 240 sites across Veteran’s Health Administration and Department of Defense facilities to serve veterans, military personnel, and their families. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, the Administration is ensuring locations are established in our most hard-hit and high-risk communities.
Because of the lifesaving tools we now have, America is in a new moment in the pandemic. The country is moving forward safely and people are getting back to their more normal routines. To ensure we’re sustaining and building on this progress and protecting and preparing for new variants, earlier this month, the President released his National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan. The President was clear that in order to execute on this plan and to stay ahead of the virus, the Administration needs additional funding from Congress—including $22.5 billion in immediate emergency funds. To date, Congress has failed to provide those funds and the country is already suffering the consequences. In the last two weeks, the Administration has had to stop reimbursing health care providers for treating the uninsured, cancel monoclonal antibody orders and cut states’ supply, reduce orders of treatments for the immunocompromised, and pull the U.S. out of line for future vaccine and next-generation treatment purchases. These issues disproportionately impact our hardest-hit and highest-risk populations, including communities of color and individuals with disabilities. The Administration continues to urge Congress to act quickly, as the consequences will continue to get worse in the coming weeks.
Protecting the American people from COVID-19 now and into the future relies on affordable and accessible tools like vaccines, treatments, tests and high-quality masks. Through efforts like COVID.gov and Test-to-Treat, the Administration continues to take steps to make these tools even more readily available. Now, we need Congress to do its part and continue to fund the COVID-19 response.
Today’s announcements include:
Launch of COVID.gov, A New One-Stop-Shop Website Where Individuals Can Find Where to Access Vaccines, Tests, Treatments, and High-Quality Masks. Today, the Administration launched COVID.gov, a new website to help people access vaccines, tests, treatments, and high-quality masks. COVID.gov also provides people an easy way to find the level of COVID-19 in their community. Early last year, the Administration launched Vaccines.gov and an associated call line to help people locate and make appointments at vaccine sites near them. In January of this year, the Administration launched COVIDTests.gov where people could order tests and have them shipped to their homes for free. COVID.gov will allow individuals to access both of these services at one convenient, easy-to-use website. It will also offer information about where to find free high-quality masks and, for the first time, where to access COVID-19 treatments.
COVID.gov will be available in English, Spanish, and Simplified Chinese and is accessible for those using assistive technologies. The Administration is also making all of these COVID-19 tools available over the phone through the National Hotline at 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489), which supports over 150 languages. For individuals with disabilities who may need additional support, the Disability Information and Access Line (DIAL) is also available to help at 1-888-677-1199 or via email at [email protected].
New Locator Tool to Help Individuals Access the Over 2,000 Test-to-Treat Sites Across the Country. Today, as part of COVID.gov, the Administration launched a new Test-to-Treat locator tool to help the public access lifesaving drugs if they are sick with COVID-19. President Biden announced in his State of the Union address the creation of the Test-to-Treat initiative. This program creates one-stop-shop locations where people can get a COVID-19 test and receive an oral antiviral treatment, if appropriate for them because they test positive and face high risks from COVID. Since the launch earlier this month, there are now over 2,000 Test-to-Treat locations nationwide, including in pharmacy-based clinics, federally-qualified community health centers (FQHCs), and long-term care facilities. As has been the case since December, people can still be tested and treated by their own health care providers who can appropriately prescribe these oral antivirals at locations where they are being distributed, now more easily identified than ever by the Test to Treat locator.
Test-to-Treat Available for All Patients in Veteran’s Health Administration and Military Personnel and Their Families. Test-to-Treat is now available for all Veterans Affairs (VA) patients in VA clinics across the country. Linking patients who test positive with treatments that are appropriate for them is the standard of care in VA clinics. Each test done in the VA is linked to a care team, and accompanied by review, patient counseling, and consideration for treatment indication and eligibility. The VA also allows individuals with a positive home test result to have a virtual visit to connect with counseling and to receive oral medication if appropriate. VA sites have access to oral antiviral treatments for COVID-19, and treatment generally is provided on site or delivered via expedited mail. In addition, the Department of Defense (DoD) has made one-stop Test-to-Treat available at more than 60 DoD Medical Treatment Facilities (MTFs) across the country, with hundreds more primed to start operating soon. MTF patients across the country—including active duty service members and TRICARE beneficiaries—can access Test-to-Treat at facilities in their communities.
Hundreds of Test-to-Treat Locations in FQHCs and Indian Health Service Facilities Across the Country to Protect Hard-Hit and High-Risk Communities from COVID-19. Test-to-Treat locations also are available in more than 240 FQHCs and Indian Health Service (IHS) Facilities across the country, ensuring access to lifesaving treatments in some of our hardest-hit and highest-risk communities. The number of these locations will continue to grow in the coming weeks, as more and more FQHCs, Rural Health Clinics, and IHS locations come online with Test-to-Treat programs. These community providers will continue to serve as trusted messengers in raising awareness about the availability of lifesaving treatments, and also partner with community-based organizations to reach specific high-risk populations, including individuals with disabilities.
Our country needed an emergency response that was worthy of the crisis we faced. A response that would leave no stone unturned, that would leverage the full force of the federal government, the innovation of the private sector, and the determination of the American people. On President Biden’s first full day in office, he released the first-ever comprehensive National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response. This strategy focused on building a response to this virus that would give people the tools they needed to protect themselves, reopen our schools, and get our economy moving again.
The U.S. government has spent the last year executing on that strategy. To get this country moving in the right direction, we worked hand-in-hand with doctors, nurses, businesses, unions, community organizations, governors, mayors, and citizens across every state, Tribe, and territory.
As a result, today, 215 million people are fully vaccinated and two-thirds of eligible adults have gotten their booster shot. We have multiple treatment options, including life-saving pills, and continue to fill the nation’s medicine cabinet. Testing capacity has dramatically increased and we have plenty of free, high-quality masks available to the American people. Schools are open and the economy is experiencing the fastest economic growth in four decades.
America must maintain the tools – vaccines, boosters, treatments, tests, and masks – to protect against COVID-19 and dramatically decrease the risk of the most severe outcomes. We must be prepared to respond to a new variant quickly and keep our schools and businesses open.
Today, the U.S. government is releasing an update to our National Strategy – the National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan – which will help move America forward safely. This plan lays out the roadmap to help us fight COVID-19 in the future as we move America from crisis to a time when COVID-19 does not disrupt our daily lives and is something we prevent, protect against, and treat. We look to a future when Americans no longer fear lockdowns, shutdowns, and our kids not going to school. It’s a future when the country relies on the powerful layers of protection we have built and invests in the next generation of tools to stay ahead of this virus.
The National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan is clear-eyed that new variants might arise. And with the support of Congress, it outlines a plan to ensure that vaccines, tests, and treatments can be updated and deployed quickly to protect against a new variant.
Make no mistake, President Biden will not accept just “living with COVID” any more than we accept “living with” cancer, Alzheimer’s, or AIDS. We will continue our work to stop the spread of the virus, blunt its impact on those who get infected, and deploy new treatments to dramatically reduce the occurrence of severe COVID-19 disease and deaths.
We are not going to just “live with COVID.” Because of our work, we are no longer going to let COVID-19 dictate how we live.
To fully execute on this plan requires Congress doing its part to invest in tools that work. Additional funding will be necessary to provide critical treatments like pills and monoclonal antibodies; to make further investments to shore up America’s testing supply; to provide resources that guard against and prepare for new variants; and to continue to fight this virus abroad. Without these investments, many of the activities described below cannot be initiated or sustained.
America has made strong progress in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress providing the resources needed to execute this plan will be critical to getting America back to our normal routines while protecting people from COVID-19, preparing for new variants, and preventing economic and educational shutdowns. Because of our work over the last two years, we can begin to move forward safely.
The President’s National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan focuses on four key goals:
Protect against and treat COVID-19
Prepare for new variants
Prevent economic and educational shutdowns
Continue to lead the effort to vaccinate the world and save lives
1: Protect against and treat COVID-19
The United States has experienced five waves of the pandemic since 2020, including three in the past year that were driven by new variants. America experienced a wave of COVID-19 cases driven by the Alpha variant in early Spring 2021 – a time when the U.S. vaccination program was administering a record number of vaccines every day. The Delta variant, which was more than twice as contagious as the original coronavirus strain, then swept across the country starting in Summer 2021, beginning in the South and spreading to the Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions.
Omicron represented another step in the virus’s evolution, and has been one of the most contagious viruses in history, causing record numbers of infections around the world over the past three months. However, because of both lower severity of the Omicron variant and a stronger level of population immunity from vaccinations, Omicron has caused relatively fewer cases of severe COVID-19. Compared to prior waves of COVID-19 in the United States, the Omicron wave has had a lower proportion of cases resulting in hospitalization or death.
America has weathered the current Omicron wave with minimal disruption – schools and businesses largely remained open. As the country emerges from the Omicron wave,our path forward relies on maintaining and continually enhancing the numerous tools we now have to protect ourselves and our loved ones – from vaccines, to tests, to treatments, to masks, and more.
In January 2021, Americans had very few tools to protect against COVID-19, and the tools we did have were in limited supply. Over the last year, together, with states, localities, and public and private partners, the Administration has mobilized an unprecedented, whole-of-society effort to give Americans the tools they need to protect themselves.
The Administration has put vaccines at the center of our COVID-19 response because vaccines are the best tool we have to prevent hospitalization and death. We stood up the largest free vaccination program in our country’s history – mobilizing 90,000 vaccination locations, standing up dozens of federally-run mass vaccination sites with the ability to administer more than a combined 125,000 shots a day, and deploying over 9,000 federal personnel to support vaccinations nationwide – including over 5,000 active duty troops.
The nation’s testing supply has increased dramatically. We now have free testing sites at 21,500 locations around the country. In January 2021, there were no rapid, at-home tests on the market available to Americans; during January 2022, there were more than 480 million at-home tests available to Americans on top of all other testing options. And we stood up COVIDtests.gov so Americans could order tests that shipped directly to their homes — for free. Private insurance and Medicaid now cover rapid at-home tests for free, and Medicare will fully cover these at-home tests starting this spring.
The path forward in the fight against COVID-19 is clear: we must maintain and continually enhance the tools we have to protect against and treat COVID-19. The Administration looks forward to working with Congress to ensure that we have the resources to do just that.
Because we have these tools, we can begin to get back to our more normal routines safely and the use of public health mitigation measures like masking can be less frequent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its framework for recommendations on preventive measures like masking, so masks are recommended when and where they matter the most and Americans will be wearing masks less often.
Make no mistake, as America moves forward we will leave no one behind. Equity will remain at the very center of our path forward in the fight against COVID-19. And we will be there to support Americans with the long-term impacts of COVID-19, including people experiencing Long COVID or mental and behavioral health challenges; as well as families suffering from the tragedy of losing someone they loved.
Launch an effort to vaccinate America’s youngest children as soon as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes and the CDC recommends a vaccine for that age group. If the FDA authorizes and the CDC recommends a vaccine for children under five years of age, the United States is prepared to immediately distribute vaccines through a network of thousands of pediatricians’ offices, children’s hospitals, health centers, and local sites, so that vaccines are made available conveniently to families across the country.
Ensure that Americans – of all ages – can get the protection of an effective vaccine. The Administration will continue to ensure that all Americans have ready access to free and safe vaccines, because vaccines are the most effective defense against COVID-19. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will also continue to monitor the efficacy and durability of currently authorized vaccines against current and future variants and make recommendations to optimize protection.
Increase American manufacturing capacity to reliably produce an additional 1 billion vaccine doses per year – three times the U.S. population – and accelerate research and development of a single COVID vaccine that protects against SARS-CoV-2 and all its variants, as well as previous SARS-origin viruses. To ensure that people stay protected, the U.S. government will continue to use advance purchasing agreements when appropriate and work closely with vaccine manufacturers to produce shots quickly and safely. Fully supporting this effort to scale up domestic vaccine manufacturing will require additional resources from Congress. Additionally, we will maintain a network of tens of thousands of sites to deliver shots to the American people at any time this effort is needed.
Continue vaccination outreach and education efforts and combat misinformation and disinformation. HHS will continue its work to equip Americans with the tools to identify misinformation and to invest in longer-term efforts to build resilience against health misinformation.
Update the framework for recommendations on preventive measures like masking to reflect the current state of the disease. Masks have been a critical tool to protect ourselves, but they have a time and a place. With a broad range of other protective tools in place, the CDC has announced an updated framework for guidance on preventive measures like masking – moving away from simply basing broad recommendations on case counts and test positivity, and instead encouraging prevention measures like masking when they are most needed to minimize severe disease and to keep our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed in times when COVID-19 is surging. By monitoring community risk, masks can be worn when the risk of severe disease in the community is high and taken off when the risk is low. Overall, it means Americans will be wearing masks less because so many people are protected from severe disease.
Launch a one-stop-shop website that allows Americans to easily find public health guidance based on the COVID-19 risk in their local area and access tools to protect themselves. The Administration will launch a website where Americans can find the level of COVID-19 risk in their community and specific guidance based on that risk. The site will also point people to the tools we now have to fight COVID-19, such as locating a vaccination site in their neighborhood or finding a free high-quality mask at a local grocery store or pharmacy.
Sustain and increase American manufacturing of COVID-19 tests, so we can continue to have a robust supply of tests. The Administration will continue to use the expedited authorization process to help test manufacturers get tests to market quickly; maintain America’s network of thousands of free testing sites; use the Defense Production Act (DPA) and other authorities, where warranted, to increase manufacturing capacity; and invest in innovation to make tests less expensive. These continued investments in testing will require additional funding from Congress.
Prioritize protections for immunocompromised people and take new actions to protect individuals with disabilities and older adults. The Administration will continue to provide strong support for the immunocompromised, including providing prioritized access to treatments and preventive interventions – pending additional funding from Congress – as well as ensuring access to boosters. The Administration will also increase equitable access to testing and COVID-19 mitigation resources for people with disabilities and older adults, and engage industry to accelerate research and development of accessible self-tests. Securing sufficient preventive treatments for people who are immunocompromised will require additional funding from Congress.
Help Americans with the long-term impacts of COVID-19. In recognition of the wide-reaching long-term impacts of COVID-19 on our society, the President will direct the U.S. government toaccelerate efforts to detect, prevent, and treat Long COVID; coordinate efforts to provide support to families who have experienced the COVID-related loss of a loved one; and attend to the mental health and well-being of our communities. The Administration will also propose to make new investments in health care workers to support their mental health and well-being.
Ensure equitable access to COVID-19 health care and public health resources. The Administration will continue to prioritize providing equitable access to COVID-19 health care and public health resources – including personal protective equipment (PPE), tests, treatments, masks, and vaccines; and address COVID-related health inequities among communities defined by race, ethnicity, geography, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other factors. The U.S. government will support dedicated resources for local community-based organizations, community health centers, and rural health clinics.
2. Prepare for new variants
As we work to keep ourselves protected against COVID-19, America must remain prepared for any new variant that may come our way. To do so, the Administration has developed a comprehensive plan for how we monitor this virus to stay ahead of it, adapt our tools swiftly to combat a new variant, and deploy emergency resources to help communities.
Before January 2021, the federal government had insufficient data and sequencing capabilities and was ill-equipped to respond to new variants. Electronic case reporting was in place for only a handful of states in 2020 and the country could sequence only 3,000 viral isolates per week. America had no plan for responding to a new variant or standing up comprehensive efforts to respond to a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Moving forward, the Administration will maintain our proven data, sequencing, variant response, and surge response capabilities. The CDC will continue to improve COVID-19 data collection, reporting, and analysis so America is better informed and ready to respond to new variants. And if new variants emerge, the federal government will leverage established playbooks to assess a new variant’s impact on our vaccines, treatments, and tests, and rapidly deploy the tools, personnel, and resources Americans need. America will also retain a significant stockpile of tools to combat COVID-19 that remain ready for deployment.
The Administration will work with Congress to secure the necessary funding to:
Improve our data collection, sequencing, and wastewater surveillance capabilities to immediately identify and detect new and emerging variants; and strengthen pandemic preparedness. The U.S. government willcontinue improvements to COVID-19 disease and vaccination data collection, wastewater surveillance, and virus sequencing capacity so we are better prepared to respond rapidly to emerging threats. This includes strengthening data infrastructure and interoperability so that more jurisdictions can link case surveillance and hospital data to vaccine data. The Administration is also leveraging COVID-19 response capabilities into stronger pandemic preparedness.
Support new FDA processes to expedite regulatory review of variant-specific versions of vaccines and treatments, so Americans can get them quickly if needed. FDA has developed new approaches to accelerate the authorization of a vaccine or treatment that targets any new variant while maintaining strict and longstanding practices to ensure the safety and efficacy of the products.
Leverage a proven COVID-19 Surge Response Playbook. The Administration has developed acomprehensive emergency response COVID-19 surge playbook to stand up mass vaccination and testing sites, expedite deployments of surge medical and emergency personnel, expand hospitals and emergency facilities, and provide emergency supplies.
Add at-home tests, antiviral pills, and masks for the general population to America’s stockpile for the first time. America will stockpile new categories of supplies including at-home tests, antiviral pills, and masks for the general population for the first time. The Administration will also maintain a fully stocked Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) with an inventory of masks, ventilators, gloves, gowns, and hospital equipment. The U.S. government will be ready to deploy supplies to the American people to ensure adequate supply in times of surges, COVID-19 outbreaks, or new variants.
The U.S. government has established a permanent logistics and operational hub at HHS to ensure accelerated development, production, and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. The Administration has transitionedan emergency logistics and operational organization into a permanent agency structure at HHS, which has allowed the Administration to build on its progress, retain expertise and skills, and continue providing the necessary tools to the American people during this pandemic and for any future disease outbreaks.
3. Prevent economic and educational shutdowns
Our path forward relies on giving schools and businesses the tools they need to prevent economic and educational shutdowns, so that our students can remain safe in school, our workers can be safe at work, and our economy can continue to grow.
At the beginning of last year, America was experiencing widespread school and business shutdowns: only 46% of K-12 schools were open for in-person learning, and millions of businesses had closed and tens of millions of Americans had lost their jobs in 2020. Throughout the last year, the Administration worked to provide schools, child care providers, and businesses with the necessary tools and resources to safely open, while keeping our children, students, and workers safe.
The Administration provided a historic investment of $130 billion from the American Rescue Plan to reopen schools by improving school ventilation, accessing tests, and hiring more teachers, nurses, and staff. To protect workers and keep our businesses open, the Administration launched the largest vaccination campaign in history – working hand-in-hand with the business community; and requiring vaccinations where we could, including for federal workers.
Today, about 99% of K-12 schools are open for in-person learning. And since President Biden took office, there has been historic job growth. The U.S. economy created 6.6 million jobs in 2021 – the strongest job growth of any year on record – and grew 5.7% in 2021, the fastest pace of economic growth in nearly four decades. The U.S. was also the first major economy to exceed its pre-pandemic economic output.
The path forward in the fight against COVID-19 is clear: schools, workers, and workplaces have resources and guidance to prevent shutdowns.
The Administration will work with Congress to secure the necessary funding to:
Give schools and businesses guidance, tests, and supplies to stay open, including tools to improve ventilation and air filtration. The U.S. government will also provide a Clean Air in Buildings Checklist that all buildings can use to improve indoor ventilation and air filtration and will encourage uptake of ventilation improvements. The Administration will also provide technical assistance that encourages schools, public buildings, and state, local, and Tribal governments to make ventilation improvements and upgrades using American Rescue Plan funds.
Update guidance for employers to ensure safer workplaces. The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will update workplace guidance to better equip employers with the tools they need to ensure safe workplaces, including guidance on how employers can continue to support increased vaccination and boosting of their employees; support workers such as people who are immunocompromised who choose to wear high-quality masks; limit workplace-based infections; and enhance ventilation.
Engage early care and education providers to help them remain safely open and help parents return to work with peace of mind. Early care and education providers, including child care centers, family child care providers, pre-K and more, have been essential in our fight against COVID-19. The Administration invested $40 billion in American Rescue Plan funds to states, territories, and Tribes to help child care providers and Head Start grantees keep their doors open and provide safe care that is crucial for parents getting back to work. Building on this funding, the Administration will continue to engage the community of early care and education providers to ensure they have tools and support to stay safely open and to continue supporting our families.
With the vast majority of federal workers at their workplaces, substantially expand levels of services at public-facing federal offices (like local Social Security offices). COVID-19 no longer needs to dictate how we work.Federal agencies will lead by example, increasing the hours public-facing federal offices are open for in-person appointments and in-person interactions in the month of April.
4. Continue to lead the effort to vaccinate the world and save lives
Fighting this virus abroad is key to America’s effort to protect people and stay ahead of new variants. To do so, we will continue to lead in providing vaccines to the world, helping to get those vaccines into arms, and deploying emergency supplies to countries experiencing surges in COVID-19. We will also continue to advance sustainable capacity and financing for health security to fight COVID-19 variants.
In addition, the U.S. government has delivered life-saving resources like oxygen, treatments, PPE, and other essential supplies worth more than $1 billion to countries experiencing outbreaks. U.S. government public health experts from the CDC, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Department of State (State), HHS and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and other entities are working side-by-side with on-the-ground providers, providing technical assistance in vaccine program implementation, care provision, and outbreak investigation. We have increased the world’s capacity to manufacture vaccines and have fostered an enabling environment for innovation, including by spurring African manufacturing.
Over the last year, the Biden Administration pioneered the model to donate and deliver surplus vaccines to the rest of the world. America was the first country to announce a purchase of doses solely for donation to other countries; the first country to give up our place in line for vaccines – allowing the African Union to immediately start receiving up to 110 million doses of Moderna at a reduced rate negotiated by the United States; and the first country to negotiate a deal to send vaccines directly to humanitarian settings and conflict zones to vaccinate displaced persons.
The path forward in the pandemic will require doubling down on our commitment to help vaccinate the globe and to save lives by making tests, treatments, and PPE widely available.
The Administration will work with Congress to secure the necessary funding to:
Leverage the vaccine donation model America pioneered to deliver the 1.2 billion doses we committed to donate to the rest of the world. America will continue todeliver the 1.2 billion doses we committed to donate to countries in need, continuing to leverage the partnerships the U.S. government built to donate and deliver vaccines to the rest of the world.
Increase efforts to get shots in arms around the world. The U.S. government will increase investment in the Initiative for Global Vaccine Access (Global VAX), an ambitious global vaccination initiative to get doses into arms by working with partner countries to more quickly implement their plans. This includes supporting efforts such as jumpstarting communications campaigns, providing and supporting vaccinators on the front lines, purchasing cold chain supplies and syringes, paying for shipping and logistics to expedite vaccine delivery to hard-to-reach areas, ensuring people at high risk of hospitalization and deaths like the elderly and immunocompromised are vaccinated, and building vaccine confidence on the ground. Expanded global shots-in-arms efforts will require additional funding from Congress.
Save lives by solving the oxygen crisis and making emergency supplies widely available. The U.S. government will make oxygen and PPE available; enhance testing; provide treatments; strengthen global health systems to fight COVID-19; protect health workers from COVID-19 and essential health services from COVID-19 disruptions; improve detection, monitoring and mitigation of new COVID-19 variants; and increase regional and local manufacturing of countermeasures. These continued investments will require additional funding from Congress.
Continue global leadership on the COVID-19 responseand build better health security for the future. The U.S. government will continue to work to build better capacity to fight COVID-19, manage future variants, and advance health security and preparedness for future pandemics. America is committed to establishing a new health security financial intermediary fund at the World Bank in 2022, and we call on all countries and public and private organizations to commit to urgent action to assist in the global COVID-19 response.
The White House detailed the consequences of Congress failing to fund efforts to combat COVID-19. Republicans have continually politicized what is a public health crisis, prolonging the epidemic and exacerbating the worst consequences – on health, life, hospitals and medical workers as well as the economy. Now Republicans are even promising to revoke the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) if they take control of Congress, as they had tried over 60 times before. It is as if they are prolonging the misery in order to have something to attack President Joe Biden and Democrats, when Biden’s historic efforts to test, vaccinate and treat the country (free), have saved a million lives. Now the country is first beginning to address the effects of long-COVID that will affect untold millions.
In a press call, a senior administration official stated, “Our scientific and medical experts have been clear that in the next couple of months we could see COVID cases increase here in the U.S., just as we’re seeing cases rising abroad right now. That’s why we remain laser-focused on fighting COVID and preparing for the future.
The President has laid out a comprehensive National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan to continue the progress we’ve made and to ensure we keep the country moving forward safely.
We asked for immediate funding needed to start to implement that plan.
In fact, for months, we’ve made clear to Congress, on a bipartisan basis, that the funding for tests, treatments, and vaccines was drying up and that additional funds would be needed.
In January, we notified the Hill that funding would be needed after the Omicron surge. In February, we briefed appropriators and authorizers about the status of funds and the consequences if there were no additional funds.
We sent a formal request of $22.5 billion to the Hill, again being clear of what we could not do without more funding.
The President called for additional funding in his State of the Union address; outlined in a 96-page plan, made clear that more funding is needed.
And our team has held more than two dozen calls and meetings with members of Congress about this emergency funding request.
We have been clear: We hoped Congress would provide these resources, as lawmakers have done multiple times on a bipartisan basis under the prior administration.
Further inaction will set us back; leave us unprepared — less prepared; and cost us more lives.
We need Congress to provide the $22.5 billion in emergency immediate funding.
Now, let me walk through some of the immediate consequences of a lack of funding.
First, on vaccines: Without additional funding, we do not have the adequate resources to purchase enough booster shots for all Americans if an additional shot is needed.
Keep in mind, when Congress passed the supplemental bill in December of 2020 and the American Rescue Plan, the mRNA vaccines were envisioned as a two-shot vaccine. We’ve now administered nearly 100 million booster shots, and four shots are now recommended and available for immunocompromised people.
To ensure enough fourth doses for all Americans or a variant-specific vaccine should we ever need them, we must have funding in hand.
Vaccines are our most effective tool. We cannot be caught without the ability to move quickly to get more of the most effective vaccines available as soon as we are able.
Next, on treatments: To date, we have shipped over 7 million courses of treatments to the American people. And in many cases, we have sent federal medical personnel to states to help administer those treatments. When Omicron hit, the federal government stepped in to ramp up delivery of the last remaining treatment that worked.
These efforts have saved lives in every state in the country.
We have planned — we had planned to purchase additional monoclonals as soon as next week. Without additional funding, we are cancelling those plans. And as we will make clear to governors later this morning, we also need to cut the number of monoclonal antibody treatments we send to states by 30 percent starting next week.
Even with these cuts, we anticipate that our supply of monoclonal antibody treatments will run out as soon as late May.
Next, on the preventative treatments for immunocompromised Americans: We have purchased 1.7 million doses of AstraZeneca’s Evusheld — all that they could produce to date.
AstraZeneca recently told us that they will be — they will have additional supply that will be available for delivery starting in September. These are doses we had planned to purchase as soon as the end of March.
Without more funding, the federal government will now be forced to scale back on that purchase. So, we’ll likely run out of treatments for our most vulnerable Americans by the end of the year, if not sooner.
The bottom line on treatments is this: Without additional funding soon, thousands of patients could lose access to treatments, and these companies will have little incentive to continue investing in the development and manufacturing of these treatments.
Next, on the uninsured fund: [The Administration] notified Congress in February that this fund that reimburses doctors and other medical providers for caring for uninsured individuals was running out of money and would have to stop taking new claims in March.
Unfortunately, we’re now having to take that action.
HHS will begin to scale back this program starting next week and end it completely in early April.
This means doctors, nurses, pharmacists, labs, and other healthcare providers will no longer be reimbursed for tests, treatments, and vaccinations for people without health insurance.
And finally, in addition to all of these impacts to our domestic response, the lack of funding greatly impacts our global response.
Without more funding, USAID and our interagency partners will have to cut short efforts to turn vaccines into vaccinations around the world.
In fact, the administration won’t be able to extend surge support to over 20 additional under-vaccinated countries that will need intensive support this year to get shots in arms.
This will devastate our ability to ensure these countries can effectively deploy safe and effective vaccines. And leaving large unvaccinated populations worldwide will increase the risk of new deadly emerging — of variants emerging that could evade our current vaccines and treatments.
Without additional funding, USAID will also be unable to provide lifesaving supplies, tests, therapeutics, oxygen, and other humanitarian aid to countries still struggling to manage a continued COVID disease burden.
Here is the White House fact sheet:
The U.S. has made tremendous progress in our fight against COVID-19. Over the past 14 months, the Biden Administration has made vital investments – using resources Congress provided on a bipartisan basis – to make sure the American people have free and widely available access to lifesaving tools: vaccines, booster shots, treatments, tests, and high-quality masks. As we enter a new moment in the pandemic, Congress has not provided us with the funding we need to continue the COVID-19 response and minimize the pandemic’s impact to the Nation and our economy. With cases rising abroad, scientific and medical experts have been clear that in the next couple of months there could be increasing cases of COVID-19 here in the U.S as well. As the Administration has warned, failure to fund these efforts now will have severe consequences as we will not be equipped to deal with a future surge. Waiting to provide funding once we’re in a surge will be too late.
Without funding, the United States will not have enough additional boosters or variant specific vaccines, if needed, for all Americans. The federal government is unable to purchase additional life-saving monoclonal antibody treatments and will run out of supply to send to states as soon as late May. The federal government cannot purchase sufficient quantities of treatments for immunocompromised individuals. And, the federal government will be unable to sustain the testing capacity we built over the last 14 months, as we head into the second half of the year.
Earlier this month, President Biden laid out a comprehensive plan to ensure that the country can continue to move forward safely and remain prepared to fight new variants and future surges of the virus. And the Administration has been clear that we need Congress to provide additional resources, including $22.5 billion in immediate emergency funding. Inaction will set us back in this fight, leave us less prepared, and cost us more lives.
Consequences of lack of critical funding include:
Inability to Secure Sufficient Booster Doses and Variant Specific Vaccines, If Needed: The federal government does not have adequate resources to purchase enough booster vaccine doses for all Americans, if additional doses are needed. The shortages will be even more acute if we need a variant-specific booster vaccine, since we will not have any existing supply.
Providers No Longer Able to Submit Claims for Testing, Treating, and Vaccinating the Uninsured: The fund that reimburses doctors and other medical providers for caring for uninsured individuals will start to be scaled back this month and end completely in early April. Specifically, one week from today – March 22 — the Uninsured Program will stop accepting new claims for testing and treatment due to lack of sufficient funds. Providers will no longer be able to submit claims for providing these services to uninsured individuals, forcing providers to either absorb the cost or turn away people who are uninsured, increasing the disparity in access to critically needed health care and putting additional burdens on safety net providers. Three weeks from today—April 5—the Uninsured Program will also stop accepting vaccination claims due to a lack of sufficient funds.
Ending the Purchase of Monoclonal Antibody Treatments, Scaling Back State/Territory Allocations: The federal government has no more funding f0r additional monoclonals, including a planned order for March 25. To date, the federal government has been able to provide these life-saving treatments free of charge to Americans and work with states to make sure they get to as many people as possible who need them. In order to keep these treatments free and available to the American people for as long as possible, the Administration will now have to stretch our current supply and, starting next week, will be forced to cut state allocations of our limited existing supply of life-saving monoclonal antibody treatments by more than 30%.
Halting Critical Testing, Vaccine, Treatment Efforts: The President’s National Preparedness Plan was clear that the federal government must invest in next-generation vaccines and treatments and maintain our testing capacity in order to fight COVID-19 in the future. Now, without additional funding, we do not have the ability to:
Purchase additional oral antiviral pills beyond the 20 million already secured.
Pre-purchase promising new antivirals. The reason why the Administration has been able to secure more oral antiviral pills than any other country is because we committed to purchasing them early, even prior to an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). As even more effective pills potentially become available, the federal government is no longer able to make advance purchase commitments to ensure America is one of the first countries in line.
Accelerate the creation of a next-generation, pan-COVID vaccine that would provide broad protection against a range of variants. Vaccines are the most effective tool to prevent COVID-19, and the Administration does not have the funding for necessary investments in research and to support the development of promising new vaccine candidates. Such next-generation vaccines hold potential to broaden protection against known and future variants, reduce dosing through single-dose primary regimens with extended duration of protection (i.e., longer interval between boosters or possible elimination of boosters altogether), and reduce costs by increasing manufacturing yields and extending shelf life.
Maintain our domestic testing capacity beyond June. After spending the last year building up our testing capacity, that progress will be squandered, the Administration will be unable to help keep domestic manufacturers online starting in June. That means, heading into the second half of the year, there will be significantly diminished domestic testing capacity and we may be unprepared for surges.
Scaling Back Planned Purchases of Preventive Treatments for Immunocompromised: The federal government has been planning to move forward with a purchase of preventative treatments for the immunocompromised as soon as March 31 that would begin delivery in September, once the treatments are manufactured. However, absent additional funding the federal government will now be forced to scale back that purchase of treatments for our most vulnerable. Because these treatments take more than 6 months to manufacture, the United States will likely not have enough of these treatments by the end of the year. And being unable to make additional purchase commitments now likely means that fewer treatments will be available next year as well.
Reducing Ability to Rapidly Identify and Assess Emerging Variants. Robust surveillance and research are critical to identify, understand and monitor emerging variants. With reduced capability to perform adequate surveillance, the country will be prone to being “blindsided” by future variants. In the absence of funding to immediately assess lab-based efficacy and real-world effectiveness of existing vaccines and treatments as new variants emerge, health care professionals will be forced to make insufficiently informed treatment decisions. The Administration will need to wind down some COVID surveillance investments, leaving us less able to detect the next variant.
Damage to Global Vaccination and COVID-19 Treatment Efforts: Without additional funding to support getting shots into arms, USAID and interagency partners will have to cut short efforts to turn vaccines into vaccinations across the globe. Leaving large unvaccinated populations worldwide will increase the risk of new deadly variants emerging that could evade our current vaccines and treatments. Without additional funds, the Administration would be unable to extend Global VAX surge support to 20+ additional under-vaccinated countries that will need intensive support this year to get shots in arms. This will devastate our ability to ensure those countries can effectively deploy safe and effective vaccines. USAID will also be unable to provide life-saving supplies, tests, therapeutics, oxygen, and humanitarian aid to countries still struggling to manage a continuing COVID disease burden.
In addition to the immediate need for funding, in order to facilitate a smooth transition to insurance coverage of life-savings COVID treatments the Administration is requesting that Congress provides authority to ensure seamless access to Medicare and insurance coverage for treatments under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).
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
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:
Boosters for All Adults
Vaccinations to Protect Our Kids and Keep Our Schools Open
Expanding Free At-Home Testing for Americans
Stronger Public Health Protocols for Safe International Travel
Protections in Workplaces to Keep Our Economy Open
Rapid Response Teams to Help Battle Rising Cases
Supplying Treatment Pills to Help Prevent Hospitalizations and Death
Continued Commitment to Global Vaccination Efforts
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Funding Will Create Tens of Thousands of Jobs to Respond to COVID-19, Prepare U.S. for Future Outbreaks, and Support Local Public Health Officials
As Vaccine for Adolescents Comes Online, Administration Sets Aside Dedicated Funding for School Nurses, Who Can Help Provide Information about Vaccinations
Even as the CDC is lifting mask and social-distancing requirements for fully vaccinated people, the Biden Administration is looking to the long-term health of the nation, our ability to get through COVID-19, but also be well positioned for the next pandemic or public health crisis. The Biden-Harris Administration announced it would invest $7.4 billion from the American Rescue Plan to recruit and hire public health workers and also redress the fact that over the past several decades, public health departments have been hollowed out. The White House provided this fact sheet:
As part of its ongoing COVID-19 response efforts, the Biden-Harris Administration will invest $7.4 billion from the American Rescue Plan to recruit and hire public health workers to respond to the pandemic and prepare for future public health challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced that public health workers are essential, providing critical services to keep Americans safe and healthy. The funding announced today will allow the United States to expand its public health workforce, creating tens of thousands of jobs to support vaccinations, testing, contact tracing, and community outreach, and strengthen America’s future public health infrastructure.
The Biden-Harris Administration will invest $4.4 billion to allow states and localities to expand their over-stretched public health departments with additional staff to support COVID-19 response efforts. This funding will support a range of public health roles, including funding for Disease Intervention Specialists to do contact tracing, case management, and support outbreak investigations, and dedicated funding to hire school nurses to help schools safely reopen and remain open for in-person instruction. Additionally, funds will support the development of the next generation of public health leaders by creating a Public Health AmeriCorps and expanding CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service – the renowned program that equips workers to identify and contain public health outbreaks.
Finally, CDC will use $3 billion from the American Rescue Plan to create a new grant program that will facilitate federal investment in the people and expertise needed at the state and local levels to expand, train, and modernize the public health workforce for the future. In the months ahead, CDC will work with leaders from across the public health community to design this new grant program.
All awardees of this American Rescue Plan funding will be asked to prioritize recruiting individuals from the communities they will serve and from backgrounds underrepresented in critical public health professions.
Today’s funding builds on the President’s announcement last week of $250 million to help community -based organizations hire and mobilize community outreach workers and social support specialists to increase access to vaccinations in the hardest-hit and highest risk communities.
The Biden-Harris Administration will:
Invest $4.4 Billion to Surge Public Health Staffing for COVID-19 Response
Help States and Localities Increase their Public Health Staffing and Expertise: State and local public health heroes have led the fight against COVID-19 for more than a year. Often understaffed and lacking resources, local public health departments have provided critical services during the pandemic, including setting up testing sites, leading local vaccination efforts, and delivering personal protective equipment, therapeutics, and care to those in need. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, CDC will fund $3.4 billion in new hiring for state and local public health departments to quickly add staff to support critical COVID-19 response efforts – including vaccination outreach and administration efforts, testing and contact tracing, epidemiologists, data scientists, and other vital public health functions. This funding includes at least $500 million for the hiring of school nurses, who can offer medical expertise to support parents and teens as vaccination options for younger people expand. This builds on resources in the American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund which can also be used to hire school nurses.
Launch Public Health AmeriCorps: At a time of unprecedented interest in public health, CDC and AmeriCorps (the Corporation for National and Community Service) will launch the Public Health AmeriCorps – a $400 million investment from the American Rescue Plan to recruit and build a new workforce ready to respond to the public health needs of the nation. The program will focus on building a diverse pipeline for the public health workforce and providing direct service to communities across the country. The partnership will leverage the expertise of both agencies, capitalizing on AmeriCorps’ experience managing some of the most prominent public service and workforce development programs in the nation while benefitting from CDC’s technical expertise as the country’s leading public health agency.
Recruit and Train Public Health Leaders: CDC will expand its current workforce programs, including the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS). EIS is a national, deployable, cutting-edge public health workforce that responds to local outbreaks. Over the past seven decades, EIS officers have served as boots-on-the-ground epidemiologists during some of the most severe outbreaks and public health emergencies, including the Ebola outbreak, H1N1, the Flint water crisis, Zika, and the COVID-19 pandemic. With $245 million from the American Rescue Plan, CDC will increase support for programs including EIS, the Undergraduate Public Health Scholars Program, and the Dr. James A. Ferguson Emerging Infectious Diseases RISE Fellowship, which offers students from underrepresented background the opportunity to study infectious diseases and health disparities. Expanding these programs will support workforce diversity in public health to help reduce longstanding health disparities and inequities. In addition, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology will invest $80 million to train public health professionals to help modernize the public health data infrastructure, with a focus on recruiting from minority serving institutions and universities.
Building the Laboratory Workforce and Building Capacity for Future Outbreaks: With $337 million from the American Rescue Plan, CDC will strengthen the public health laboratory workforce pipeline. CDC will expand the current public health laboratory fellowship programs for laboratory science graduates and implement a new public health internship program for undergraduate students to gain experiences in public health laboratory settings. Funds will improve the capacity of the nation’s public-private clinical laboratory infrastructure to support rapid, large-scale responses to public health emergencies.
Invest $3 Billion to Prepare for Future Pandemics
Create a New Program to Modernize the Public Health Workforce: CDC will create a new grant program to provide under-resourced health departments with the support they need to hire staff and build a strong public health workforce. This grant program will offer community health workers and others hired for the COVID-19 response an opportunity to continue their careers beyond the pandemic as public health professionals. CDC will convene federal, state, local, and territorial public health experts to inform the design and focus of this new grant program. Ultimately, the program will allow the United States to continue to support the nation’s public health infrastructure, particularly in lower-income and underserved communities.
Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, delivered remarks on the economy and the May jobs report which unexpectedly showed 2.5 million jobs added and an unemployment rate dipping slightly to 13.3%, instead of rising to as much as 20%. But that 2.5 million jobs reflects the fact that states have begun reopening; there were 40 million people who have filed for unemployment, so an unimaginable 37 million are still without jobs. And 13.3% is still higher than at any time during the 2008 Great Recession. Moreover, the Trump administration apparently changed the way certain numbers are calculated, so the actual unemployment rate could be 3 points higher, or 16.3%, which would be closer to what economists forecast. Trump also manages to ignore the fact that the stimulus program pushed by Democrats over Republicans’ objections, worked to keep the economy from descending into a Great Depression. He also ignored the disproportionate unemployment rates among Blacks and Hispanics, groups that are also suffering disproportionately from COVID-19. But Trump is desperate to put a rosy face on an economy while ignoring the fact the coronavirus pandemic is still spreading and his administration has done virtually nothing to provide a national program for testing, tracing and isolating, nor even set standards for workplaces and schools only some tepid guidelines. And Trump was desperate to shift attention from his Fascistic overreach of using military power used against peaceful protesters calling for an end to race-based police brutality.
Instead, Vice President Biden took Trump to task and offered his own analysis of the depth of harm to the economy and public health caused by Trump’s failure of leadership and his preoccupation with Wall Street over Main Street, wealth over wages.
Here is a transcript of Biden’s remarks: –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Before I speak to the economic situation, I have to take a moment to address something the President said this morning.
Toward the end of his remarks today, Donald Trump said he hopes that George Floyd “is looking down and seeing this is a great day for our country.”
He was speaking of a man who was brutally killed by an act of needless violence — and by a larger tide of injustice — that has metastasized on this President’s watch.
George Floyd’s last words — “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” — have echoed across our nation.
For the President to try to put any other words in the mouth of George Floyd — is frankly despicable.
And, the fact that he did so on a day when Black unemployment rose and black youth unemployment skyrocketed — tells you everything you need to know about who this man is and what he cares about.
Today, like all Americans, I was glad to see that two-and-a-half million Americans have gotten their jobs back.
For those families, that’s a sigh of relief.
And for all of us, it’s a reminder of the resilience of the American people.
To those Americans, I’m so proud of you, and so happy for you and your families.
I was disturbed, however, to see the President crowing this morning — basically hanging a “mission accomplished”’ banner when there is so much work to be done — and so many Americans are still hurting.
More than twenty million Americans — one out of every seven U.S. workers — are still out of work.
For an enormous swath of our country, their dreams are still on hold. They are still struggling to put food on the table. The unemployment rate remains the highest it’s been in nearly a century.
As I said, Black unemployment went up this month. Latino youth unemployment jumped to over 37 percent. Hispanic unemployment overall is four times higher than it was before the President botched his response to the pandemic. And I’m worried, when you look deeper at the data, that while temporary layoffs went down,permanent layoffs went up.
Donald Trump still doesn’t get it.
He’s out there spiking the football — completely oblivious to the tens of millions of people who are facing the greatest struggle of their lives. Those folks aren’t feeling any less pain today than they were yesterday.
People who’ve lost their health care in this crisis, they’re not celebrating today — especially when Donald Trump is still in court fighting to strip away health care protections from even more Americans.
The fact is, there are about 13 million less jobs today for American workers than the day that President Obama and I left office.
So while it’s wonderful to see ten percent of the families who lost their jobs due to Trump’s disastrous pandemic response start to make their way back — the President’s behavior makes me deeply worried for the 90 percent who haven’t.
So to all those families — who are scared, and hurting, and wondering what’s going to happen next: I want you to know I see you. I won’t ever forget you. And I won’t be satisfied – until this economy starts working for all of you.
Let’s be clear about something. The depth of this job crisis is not attributable to an act of God — but to the failure of a President. The truth is every country dealt with job losses due to the pandemic, but America was hit much harder out of the gate due to Trump’s complete mismanagement of the response.
This morning, he tried to compare our response to Germany’s and South Korea’s.
Okay, let’s compare. Germany has one-third of the deaths per capita that we do. South Korea has less than 300 deaths — total. America has four percent of the world’s population — and more than a quarter of the world’s deaths from this pandemic.
It’s no secret why that is.
Let’s get something straight: he did not act quickly.
For months, he downplayed the threat — falsely promising us that anyone could get a test — and claiming that “like a miracle it will disappear.”
He repeatedly praised China’s containment response – despite a litany of public appeals — including from me — not to bet American lives and the U.S. economy on the word of the Chinese government.
He refused to take action to get adequate testing in place — allowing the virus to spread further than it should have.
Columbia University found that 54,000 lives could have been saved if the administration had acted just two weeks earlier.
His failure didn’t just cost lives. It cost jobs.
New studies this week from Moody’s and Brookings confirm that half or more of those who lost their jobs would still be employed had Trump mounted a competent response like Germany and South Korea and other countries did.
We know why this happened. Donald Trump was more focused on the stock wealth of the biggest corporations than he was on the well-being of the American people.
It’s why he had his top economic advisors telling people to buy stocks instead of preparing our nation to brace for the pandemic.
Now — after 110,000 deaths and more than 20 million people still out of work — the consequences are clear.
We are still facing devastating unemployment, an historic health crisis, and a continuing crisis of violence, injustice, and indignity that is devastating Black Americans and diminishing the soul of our country.
These are some of the sternest challenges our nation has ever faced, and Trump is patting himself on the back.
He just has no idea what’s really going on in this country. He has no idea the depth of pain that people are facing. He remains completely oblivious to the human toll of his indifference. It is time for him to step out of his bunker and take a look around at the consequences of his words and actions.
Let’s be clear — a president who takes no responsibility for costing millions and millions of Americans their jobs deserves no credit when a fraction of them return.
But there’s a deeper concern here. As we recover, some of the temporary job losses we are still not on track to grow back in a way that will actually serve working people.
President Trump is still rewarding wealth over work.
All we hear coming out of the White House is calls for more tax cuts for big investors and big corporations. Well, they didn’t build this country. The middle class did — that’s who I fight for.
And if Trump continues to put the interests of CEOs and shareholders ahead of American workers, we’ll never get to where we need to be as a country.
Look, every American has a choice to make this November. Not simply what kind of President we want , but what kind of country we want. What kind of economy we want — and who that economy serves.
In the coming weeks, I will lay out in detail my comprehensive plan— not just to build things back to the way they were before COVID-19, but to build back better.
To create millions of new, good-paying jobs with benefits where people get a fair return for work and we make our country stronger, more resilient, and more just.
That plan will be anchored in job-creating investments, in small businesses, infrastructure – innovation, manufacturing, and caregiving, and in rewiring the faulty structures of our economy to ensure the dignity and equity of all American workers.
The public health crisis, the job crisis, and the crisis of inequity and indignity being endured by African Americans — those three challenges are deeply connected to one another.
The solutions must be, as well.
Any economic plan must start with a public health plan to make sure tests are available, to get our society functioning, to build back the confidence we need to truly bring back jobs and small businesses.
But that is only the first step.
My jobs plan will also be about restoring dignity to the American people.
In addition to pursuing badly-needed reforms, we need to be growing wages, leveling the playing field, and creating tens of millions of the new jobs we need to build a better American future.
There is a monumental amount of work to do to repair the damage that has been done. And simply tweeting slogans like “transition to greatness” won’t solve anything for families who are hurting.
I look forward to introducing and implementing a real jobs plan that will meet this challenging moment.
Americans can’t afford to have any more of their time wasted.
They need an economy that works for them — now.
They need jobs that bring dignity — now.
They need equal justice — and equal opportunities — now.
They need a president who cares about them, and cares about helping them heal — now.