Biden assures Americans vaccinated against Covid-19 they can move forward with vacation plans despite Omicron’s skyrocketing

“I know some Americans wonder if it is safe to celebrate the holidays with your family and friends. The answer is yes, you can if you and those you celebrate with are vaccinated, especially if you have received your. recall, ”Biden said. in a speech to the White House on Tuesday.

Conversely, he warned those who have not yet received a vaccine of the risk of serious illness or death in the months to come.

“All those people who haven’t been vaccinated, you have an obligation to yourselves, to your family and quite frankly … to your country. Get vaccinated now, it’s free, it’s convenient and it saves lives, ”he said.

Biden on Tuesday announced the purchase of half a billion home Covid-19 rapid tests, one in a series of new steps he unveiled in a speech as the country faces a surge potentially crippling winter infections.

The 500 million new tests will be available next month and will reach Americans by mail, the official said. The administration is still working to determine how many tests each household can request. In a call Tuesday, senior administration officials were unable to provide new details on the exact launch of the website to request the tests and how quickly the tests will be dispatched.

“We’re working on all the details. And we’ll have them in the coming weeks,” a senior administration official said in a briefing with CNN.

The official said the “first deliveries” of these tests will take place in January and the website will launch “in January or around January as well.” The official also said the White House was “working out all the details” when asked how Americans without internet access could secure the tests.

The new test shipment program came amid remarks intended to underscore the White House’s plan to deal with what is expected to be a significant spike in cases driven by the now dominant Omicron variant in the coming weeks. Already, cases are increasing rapidly in parts of the country and hospitals are approaching capacity.

Among the president’s new initiatives is a plan to prepare 1,000 military personnel to deploy to overcrowded hospitals across the country in January and February, administration officials said. These service members will include doctors, nurses, physicians and other military medical personnel.

One official said: “God willing,” the full 1,000 would not be needed, “but if we do, they are ready and mobilized.”

“The President will tell the American people if they are vaccinated and will follow the precautions we are all familiar with, especially wearing masks when traveling, they should feel comfortable celebrating Christmas and the holidays the way they do. had planned, “a senior administration official said in advance. previewing a speech that Biden hopes will reassure anxious Americans ahead of the holiday season.

In contrast, Biden warned the tens of millions of Americans who have so far refused to be vaccinated that they are at high risk of becoming ill or being hospitalized as the highly transmissible variant of Omicron spreads rapidly. Across the country.

Biden also announced new vaccination sites and increased access to vaccines, and will deploy hundreds of additional federal vaccinators who will help add “thousands of appointments each week,” the official said.

Although demand for vaccines has declined in recent months, the surge caused by the Delta variant earlier this year resulted in increased demand for vaccines in some of the hardest-hit areas.

Biden also touched on FEMA’s efforts to expand hospital capacity and pre-position medical supplies in places where stocks could run out in the coming weeks.

The speech, which takes place just days before Christmas, reflects Biden’s renewed focus on the coronavirus pandemic as anxiety grows across the country over the potential for further restrictions and lockdowns.

Queues for testing centers have stretched over blocks in some areas, including the northeast, leading the White House to develop plans to open new federal testing sites in New York City before Christmas.

The distribution of free home tests to all Americans was canceled by the White House just this month. Press secretary Jen Psaki scoffed earlier this month when asked if the tests should be free and distributed, available everywhere.

“Should we send one to every American?” ” she asked.

While the White House plan announced on Tuesday does not send a test to all Americans, people would instead request the tests online. Those who use them will not have to report their results to public health agencies, officials said.

Pressed by the change, a senior administration official insisted the new plan “builds” on the administration’s previous testing initiatives and pointed to an increase in supply.

“For the first time in this pandemic because of all the actions we’ve taken – because of the FDA allowing a lot of testing, because we created the market, because we used the (Defense Production Act) consistently for the past 11 months – we have the capacity to make this purchase. We have the manufacturing capacity for a massive purchase like this starting in January, “the manager said.” If we can do that. more, we will. “

The official also pointed out that “the demand for tests … has now increased” amid the Omicron surge and the holiday season and said the government’s purchase of 500 million tests is an additional layer in more than the existing commercial offer.

The administration had already announced a plan obliging health insurance providers to reimburse policyholders for the cost of home tests; this initiative remains in place next year.

In his remarks, Biden acknowledged a likely increase in cases – including among those vaccinated – but pointed to the drastically different outcomes for those vaccinated and those not protected by the vaccines.

Biden and his team have insisted the federal lockdown recommendations are not in the cards this time around. And in his remarks, Biden will focus primarily on measures to prevent a crippling of the U.S. public health system than on efforts to completely stop the spread of the virus.

Learn to live alongside the Covid-19.  But good luck finding a test.

This is a breaking story and will be updated.

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