The initiatives come as Omicron blankets the U.S. and quantity to a redeployment of emergency defenses seen final yr within the hope of containing the virus’ unfold with out resorting to highschool closures and financial lockdowns.
“We all know we’ve got the instruments to get by this wave,” the senior administration official mentioned.
Biden will formally announce the brand new efforts in speech this afternoon, the place he’s additionally anticipated to ship a stark message: When you’re vaccinated, life can proceed as regular. However those that aren’t are placing themselves and the well being system at grave danger.
The tone marks a shift from earlier this month, when Biden sought to unify the nation behind a broader winter Covid-19 plan that he hailed as a possibility to “put the divisiveness behind us.”
But within the intervening weeks, Omicron tore throughout the nation, driving up circumstances and hospitalizations and fueling testing shortages and fears of swamped hospitals.
The variant is now dominant inside the U.S., the CDC confirmed earlier this week. Whereas obtainable Covid vaccines nonetheless present vital safety, officers have warned that breakthrough infections at the moment are more likely amongst those that have but to get their booster photographs.
The surge means Biden — who’s already grappling with falling approval scores and the general public’s pandemic fatigue — is prone to start his second yr in workplace the way in which he started his first: Making an attempt to fend off a fierce resurgence of Covid-19 with no clear finish to the general public well being disaster.
These issues are driving the deliberate build-out of testing and hospital capability, at the same time as Biden and prime well being officers downplay the menace to the vast majority of Individuals who’re totally vaccinated.
The administration is establishing federal testing websites once more, with the primary resulting from open in New York Metropolis this week. And after weeks of criticism over its reluctance to ship out free at-home assessments, the federal government will purchase 500 million assessments that it plans to mail out on request.
These free assessments is not going to be obtainable till January, and the administration remains to be establishing the web site the place folks can request them. Officers have additionally but to settle such questions as what number of assessments will be ordered directly.
However the buy comes along with the 50 million at-home assessments that the administration earlier dedicated to distributing to group well being facilities, in addition to a separate initiative requiring personal insurers to reimburse the price of at-home assessments that’s resulting from take impact in mid-January.
Along with increasing testing availability and making ready reinforcements for hospitals, Biden may even announce plans to ramp up vaccination efforts by opening up new vaccination clinics and dealing with pharmacies so as to add extra appointment occasions and capability.