To Fight Omicron, Biden Plans Aid From Military and 500 Million Tests

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The president is acceptable to unveil his initiatives, which besides see creating caller national investigating sites and deploying national vaccinators, successful a code connected Tuesday.

Philadelphia residents waiting to person   escaped  at-home coronavirus trial  kits connected  Monday. President Biden is acceptable   to denote  that helium  plans to administer  500 cardinal  specified  escaped  tests to the public.
Credit...Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Sheryl Gay Stolberg

Dec. 21, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON — President Biden volition denote caller steps connected Tuesday to face a staggering surge successful coronavirus cases, including readying 1,000 subject aesculapian professionals to assistance astatine overburdened hospitals, mounting up caller national investigating sites, deploying hundreds of national vaccinators and buying 500 cardinal accelerated tests to administer escaped to the public.

The measures, outlined to reporters Monday nighttime by 2 elder medication officials who spoke connected information of anonymity, travel arsenic coronavirus caseloads are rapidly rising astir the country, peculiarly successful the Northeast, fueled by the highly infectious caller Omicron variant — conscionable arsenic Americans hole to stitchery for Christmas.

The 500 cardinal tests that the medication intends to acquisition volition not beryllium disposable until January, the elder officials said, adding that the authorities intends to make a website wherever radical tin petition that tests beryllium sent to their homes, escaped of charge. It was not instantly wide wherever the tests would travel from.

The program for caller national investigating sites volition debut successful New York City, wherever respective caller sites volition beryllium moving earlier Christmas. And Mr. Biden intends to invoke the Defense Production Act, officials said, to accelerate accumulation of tests.

The program has a much urgent code than the wintertime pandemic strategy that Mr. Biden announced 3 weeks agone astatine the National Institutes of Health, conscionable days aft the caller variant was discovered successful South Africa. At the time, helium promised that the 150 cardinal Americans with backstage wellness security would beryllium capable to get reimbursed for at-home Covid-19 tests starting successful mid-January, said his medication would amended entree to booster shots and imposed caller investigating requirements for planetary travelers.

But that program — and Mr. Biden’s broader effect to the Omicron variant — has drawn disapproval from nationalist wellness experts, who accidental the president has focused excessively heavy connected vaccination arsenic his cardinal strategy. Many person called connected him to beryllium much assertive astir investigating arsenic a means of slowing the variant’s dispersed — including perchance sending accelerated tests to the homes of each American, escaped of charge.

Since Mr. Biden announced his wintertime strategy, the Omicron variant has exploded; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported connected Monday that it has raced up of different variants and is present the ascendant mentation of the coronavirus successful the United States, accounting for 73 percent of caller infections past week.

“We person to admit the world that unfortunately, with a dense heart, the microorganism is successful complaint and we request to instrumentality backmost control, and the lone mode to bash that arsenic a nine is to trial and isolate, trial and isolate, repeat, repeat, repeat,” said Mara Aspinall, an adept successful aesculapian diagnostics astatine Arizona State University.

Mr. Biden was himself exposed to the coronavirus precocious past week but has tested negative, White House officials said connected Monday. With Americans already jittery astir their vacation plans, helium volition effort to reassure the federation portion reminding people, yet again, that their champion defence against Covid-19 is to get vaccinated and, for those who are eligible, to get booster shots.

The White House is trying to debar speech of lockdowns astatine each costs, and, to the consternation of some, has stopped abbreviated of urging radical to cancel question plans, debar nationalist proscription and the like.

“This is not a code astir locking the state down,” Jen Psaki, the White House property secretary, told reporters earlier connected Monday. “This is simply a code outlining and being straight wide with the American radical astir the benefits of being vaccinated, the steps we’re going to instrumentality to summation access, summation testing, and the risks posed to unvaccinated individuals.”

But Mr. Biden volition besides admit that the signifier of the pandemic is shifting, the officials said. Breakthrough Omicron infections are common, though scientists judge that the vaccines volition inactive supply extortion against the worst outcomes. Many afloat vaccinated and boosted radical who are getting infected are experiencing mild symptoms oregon nary astatine all.

Mr. Biden volition accidental that if radical are vaccinated and travel different nationalist wellness guidelines, including wearing masks successful nationalist places, “they should consciousness comfy celebrating Christmas and the holidays” with their families, 1 of the officials said.

But beneath those notes of assurance from the president is heavy interest among his advisers — and nationalist wellness experts — astir the quality of the nation’s hospitals, which are already nether large strain, to withstand an Omicron surge. Even if the variant ends up causing little terrible illness and a comparatively debased percent of those infected request to beryllium hospitalized, experts say, the detonation successful cases means it is inactive imaginable that hospitals volition go overwhelmed.

“That’s the large concern,” said Dr. Marcus Plescia, the main aesculapian serviceman of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. “If determination are a batch of radical getting sick, adjacent if lone a tiny information of them are getting severely ill, that could inactive beryllium a immense fig of people.”

Mr. Biden intends to nonstop his defence secretary, Lloyd J. Austin III, to “ready an further 1,000 work members — subject doctors, nurses, paramedics and different aesculapian unit — to deploy to hospitals during January and February, arsenic needed,” according to a information expanse prepared by the White House.

At the aforesaid time, Mr. Biden volition denote that six national exigency effect teams, with much than 100 wellness professionals and paramedics, volition deploy instantly to six states: Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire and Vermont. Already, 300 national aesculapian workers person been deployed since Omicron was discovered successful precocious November.

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Credit...Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

Mr. Biden volition besides nonstop the Federal Emergency Management Agency to enactment with hospitals crossed the state to marque plans to grow capacity. FEMA volition besides basal up caller pop-up vaccination clinics, the officials said, to grip hundreds of further vaccinations per week.

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The authorities is besides sending ventilators to the states — past week, officials said, it sent 330 — and volition person hundreds of ambulances and exigency aesculapian teams, overseen by FEMA, astatine the acceptable “so that if 1 infirmary fills up, they tin transport patients to unfastened beds successful different facilities,” according to the information sheet. It was not wide who would unit those teams, but the information expanse said that adjacent now, “30 paramedics are heading to New Hampshire, 30 to Vermont and 20 to Arizona, and 30 ambulances are headed to New York and 8 to Maine.”

The White House knows that the coming weeks — which 1 infectious illness expert, Michael Osterholm, has predicted volition beryllium a “viral blizzard” — volition beryllium a trial of Mr. Biden’s presidency. In announcing his wintertime pandemic strategy earlier this month, the president said helium was “sparing nary effort, removing each roadblocks to support the American radical safe.”

“We’re going to combat this variant with subject and speed, not chaos and confusion,” the president said then.

But arsenic Omicron took clasp astatine lightning velocity implicit the past fewer weeks, the administration’s attack seemed astir debased key, with the president leaving astir messaging astir it to his Covid-19 Response Team and its data-focused briefings.

Dr. Plescia, of the authorities wellness officials association, said helium would particularly similar to spot Mr. Biden usage his level to exhort governors and mayors to reimpose the disguise mandates galore person abandoned.

“I deliberation helium needs to hole the nationalist for the information that we whitethorn person to beryllium much aggressive,” Dr. Plescia said. “So acold the connection is we’re not doing stay-at-home orders, but I deliberation the adjacent happening to bash would beryllium to get overmuch much assertive with disguise ordinances. The president has a batch of influence, and it would beryllium possibly bully to perceive a small spot much of that.”

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