WASHINGTON (Fwrd Axis) — With the weather getting colder, President Joe Biden outlined his plan to combat COVID-19 this winter with the new omicron variant now in the United States.
Biden’s plan includes making at-home rapid tests free, extending the mask requirement on public transit and requiring more testing for those traveling internationally.
The plan also includes free at-home Covid testing and individuals with private insurance will get reimbursed for the tests. The administration will distribute 50 million free tests to health centers and clinics for those who are uninsured.
“We are in a better position than we were a year ago to fight COVID-19,” Biden said.
The President spoke about the division over vaccinations and COVID-19, with a large portion of the country still not vaccinated or refusing to get the booster shot, citing fear and misinformation.
“I know Covid-19 has been very divisive in this country, has become a political issue, which is a sad, sad commentary. It shouldn’t be, but it has been,” Biden said. “Now, as we move into the winter and face the challenge of this new variant, this is a moment we can put the divisiveness behind us, I hope.”
The President added the new plan will not include new lockdowns or an expansion of the current vaccination requirements.
“It doesn’t include shutdowns or lockdowns, but widespread vaccinations and boosters and testing a lot more,” Biden said.
The administration is working to contain the new omicron variant, which now has cases in both California and Minnesota. Biden said beginning next week all international travelers — regardless of nationality or vaccination status — will be required to test negative before they depart their country for the United States.
Meanwhile, the mask requirements for domestic travel will be extended through mid-March.
“This new variant is cause for concern, but not panic,” Biden said Thursday during remarks at the NIH. “We knew there would be cases of this variant here in the United States and it’s here, but we have the best tools, the best vaccines in the world, the best medicine and the best scientists in the world. We’re going to fight this variant with science and speed, not chaos and confusion.”
The White House unveiled the plan early Thursday morning prior to the second Omicron case being confirmed by the CDC. Health officials around the world are concerned that the variant, which has over 50 mutations, could prove more transmissible and could evade vaccines in some strains.
The administration is going ahead with their plans to require companies with 100 or more employees to voluntarily move forward with the requirements to get their staff vaccinated or tested weekly by January 4.
Biden acknowledged a federal appellate court put his policy on hold pending review last month, citing constitutional concerns. However, he added the new plan will not be as strict as the winter season approaches.
“And while my existing federal vaccination requirements are being reviewed by the courts, this plan does not expand or add to those mandates — a plan that all Americans hopefully can rally around, and it should get bipartisan support in my humble opinion,” Biden said.
The President said Thursday the plan is to keep schools open and children in the classrooms. To help with that, he will open family vaccination clinics at community health centers and other locations around the country.
“We want our children in school, we are going to take new steps to make sure it stay stays that way,” Biden said. “But again, the best step is to vaccinate your children.”