In the face of an alarming surge in coronavirus cases threatening to overwhelm the country’s hospital system, President Biden on Tuesday once again stepped up his administration’s pandemic response, trying to reassure a concerned nation by telling Americans that “we are all concerned about Omicron.” should be, but don’t panic ”. . “
In a speech at the White House, Mr. Biden instructed his Secretary of Defense to provide 1,000 military medics to assist if needed; he announced new vaccination and testing centers; and he said his government is buying 500 million rapid Covid-19 tests to be distributed to the public for free via a new website starting January.
But first, Mr Biden took on the role of Comforter, reminding Americans that, despite the highly contagious new variant of Omicron, the situation the country is facing today is far different from what it was at the start of the pandemic in early 2020 – there were no vaccines or Treatments and essential medical equipment were scarce. As in the past, he insisted that no locks were required now.
“This is not March 2020,” said Mr Biden. “Two hundred million people are vaccinated. Goods prepared; we know more. “
The speech comes at a precarious moment for Mr Biden, who promised to contain the pandemic only to face a changing virus that now claims more than 1,000 Americans every day and is once again spreading at breakneck speed – and a controversial one political climate in which many Americans, especially supporters of former President Donald J. Trump, have refused to be vaccinated.
In his remarks, Mr. Biden confirmed the former president, noting that Mr. Trump recently said he had received a booster and that “thanks to the previous administration and the scientific community, America will be one of the first countries to receive the vaccine”. . ”
But he also condemned the “dangerous misinformation on cable television and social media” and companies and personalities that “made money by telling lies and allowing misinformation that can kill their own customers and supporters.”
The president’s moves build on a winter pandemic strategy he announced three weeks ago and reflect an awareness in the White House of the growing threat posed by the Omicron variant.
While Mr Biden admitted that the virus infected some vaccinated people, he urged unvaccinated Americans to get their vaccinations and vaccinated people to freshen up if they are eligible, saying that the unvaccinated “are at significantly higher risk of being im To land hospital “. – or even die. “
Some infectious disease experts say that now there is simply no way to stop the virus from spreading and that administration needs to focus on slowing the spread, protecting the most vulnerable and preventing the already stressed hospital systems from becoming overwhelmed .
“The main goal really is to prevent people from losing their health and overloading hospitals, delaying cancer treatments and surgeries for people who need them, delaying burnout in health workers,” said Lu Borio, a former acting chief scientist for Food and Drug Administration said in an interview. Complete infection prevention was “not a win-win battle,” she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Monday that Omicron, which caused less than 1 percent of new Covid-19 cases in the US at the beginning of December, now accounts for nearly three-quarters of the new cases, a statistic that underscores the urgency of Mr Biden’s moves. So-called “breakthrough infections” are becoming more common in vaccinated people, although many of these cases have either mild or no symptoms.
As a result, experts say people need to rely on tests not only to determine if they are sick, but also to guide them in their daily activities, such as going to work or social gatherings. Matching the supply of tests with demand has been challenging for both the Trump and Biden administrations, and the United States has lagged behind Europe when it comes to making home testing cheap and readily available.
The 500 million tests the government plans to buy and the website Americans can request for them won’t be available until January. Much will depend on when exactly that will be.
“It is fantastic to publicly and clearly recognize the important role of tests, but success now depends on the speed with which these tests can be distributed and on providing a clear and simple process,” said Mara Aspinall, expert on Biomedicine Diagnostics at Arizona State University. “Time is of the essence. January is realistic, but is it January 4th or January 24th? There is a big difference. “
Some said the test plan was too small and too late. “A beginning (finally), but billions will be needed to prevent it from spreading,” Dr. Eric Topol, Founder and Director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, wrote on Twitter. Dr. Topol suggested in a separate attachment that the president could have acted more aggressively on other fronts, for example by distributing K95 masks to all households.
However, Mr Biden defended himself and insisted on answering questions after realizing that the shortage of tests was not his government’s failure. He also said he was considering lifting the travel restrictions he imposed on eight African nations after the variant of Omicron was first discovered in South Africa.
It wasn’t immediately clear where the tests would come from, how they would be shipped, or whether the number of a single order would be limited. Officials said the president will continue to invoke the Defense Production Act to expedite the production of tests.
Mr. Biden’s plan for new state test sites will be unveiled in New York City, where several new sites will be operational before Christmas. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will also open new pop-up vaccination clinics, officials said, including four in New Mexico, due to open Tuesday.
Hospital officials welcomed the plan. Rick Pollack, chairman of the board of directors of the American Health Association, a nonprofit group for hospitals and health networks, said in a statement that Mr. Biden’s steps “would help hospitals and their caregivers continue to deliver the care their patients and communities depend on “.
Mr. Biden tried not only to address the nation’s practical problems, but also the nation’s injured psyche.
“I know that you are really tired and I know that you are frustrated,” he said, adding, “We all want this to be over, but we’re still at it.”