Biden to Announce New Steps in Coronavirus Fight as Omicron Fuels Infections

With the number of new reported coronavirus cases double what they were two months ago, and with the highly transmissible omicron variant accounting for nearly three-fourths of cases in the United States, President Joe Biden is scheduled to give an address Tuesday highlighting the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations and new steps his government is taking to combat the pandemic.

The White House said ahead of the speech that Biden would announce the implementation of pop-up vaccination clinics and new federal testing sites in different areas of the country, as well as an effort to distribute 500 million at-home rapid tests to American homes beginning in January.

The new initiatives also include helping care for COVID-19 patients, with the prepositioning of supplies such as ventilators as well as N-95 masks, gloves and gowns to protect medical workers.  The federal government will also work to expand capacity at hospitals and deploy 1,000 military medical personnel to hospitals, the White House said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday a major message of Biden’s speech will be about the need for COVID-19 vaccinations, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says are effective at preventing severe disease and death.

“Importantly, he’ll restate we’re prepared and that fully vaccinated individuals have the tools to protect themselves with a booster shot and masking where CDC recommends,” Psaki said.  “For those who choose to remain unvaccinated, he’ll issue a stark warning and make clear unvaccinated individuals will continue to drive hospitalizations and deaths.”

According to CDC data, 204 million people in the United States are fully vaccinated, and 61 million people – 30% of the population – have received a booster dose.

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