by Zeke Miller and Alexandra Jaffe
BETHESDA, MD (AP) — With a rising number of COVID-19 cases predicted this winter, President Joe Biden on Thursday urged Americans to get their boosters and tackle the new Omron variant through the wider availability of vaccines and shots. appealed to him to leave his plan behind. , but without the new major restrictions on daily life.
Biden wants private insurance companies to cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests and is tightening testing requirements for people entering the United States, regardless of their vaccination status. While some other countries are closing their borders or reinstating lockdowns, the president said he would not impose additional clampdowns at this time beyond his recommendation that Americans wear masks indoors in public settings.
Biden said during a visit to the National Institutes of Health in suburban Maryland after a briefing with scientific advisers, “Experts say COVID-19 cases will continue to rise in the coming weeks this winter, so we’re going to have to prepare.” need to stay.”
He said his new strategy “does not involve shutdowns and lockdowns,” and he expected bipartisan support.
“The plan I’m announcing today leaves no stone unturned in the fight against COVID-19, and it’s a plan that I think we should unite with,” Biden said.
Legal challenges have stymied Biden’s vaccination-or-test requirement for workers at large employers, and have led to the president urging businesses to implement their own mandates so companies can stay open without outbreaks.
His administration has come this winter for widespread adoption of booster shots as its most effective tool to combat COVID-19. Medical experts say the boosters offer advanced and more permanent protection, including the newer types.
Much is unknown about the Omicron type, such as whether it is more contagious, makes people more seriously ill and can cause vaccines to fail. Officials said Thursday that the second case of the variant has been confirmed in the United States.
About 100 million Americans are eligible for a booster under current US policy, and more are becoming eligible every day. Officials believe that persuading the vaccinated to take another dose would be easier than vaccinating the nearly 43 million adult Americans who haven’t received a shot.
“Go get your booster now,” Biden said.
The White House said senior citizens are most vulnerable to the virus, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will send notices to all 63 million Medicare beneficiaries encouraging them to receive booster doses. AARP will work with the administration on education campaigns for seniors.
So far, about 42 million Americans, about half of whom are senior citizens, have received a booster dose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week broadened its booster dose recommendation to cover all Americans who are at least 18 years old, starting six months after the second dose of mRNA vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna.
Biden said the CDC is developing new guidance for schools in an effort to reduce or eliminate existing quarantine requirements for people who are not fully vaccinated and exposed to the virus. This could include “test-to-stay” policies, in which those considered close contacts can continue to attend school but wear masks and undergo serial testing in an effort to minimize learning loss and disruption. Huh.
Officials said private insurance companies cover at-home testing, and details are yet to be worked out.
People insured by Medicare and Medicaid would not be eligible, but the White House said 150 million people with private insurance would see easy and affordable access to at-home testing. The administration said it is making 50 million COVID-19 tests free for older people and other vulnerable groups for pickup at senior centers and community sites.
Starting next week, Biden said, all passengers traveling to the US, regardless of nationality or vaccination status, must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within one day of boarding flights. This compares to three days now for people who have been vaccinated. White House postpones tough choices like requiring testing or quarantining after arrival in US
The White House has not yet taken action to require domestic US travelers to be vaccinated or tested. Officials believe such a requirement would be mired in litigation.
“We base our decisions on the advice of health and medical experts about what is going to be most effective and what we can implement,” press secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday.
Biden is expanding his directive requiring masks on airplanes and other public transit that was set to expire in January, at least mid-March, the White House said. .
The administration is notifying states that there are more than 60 teams available to help them or their municipalities and that there has been an increase in cases of public health shortages in the winter.