March 2, 2022 — In his first State of the Union deal with on Tuesday night, President Joe Biden urged Individuals to not let their guard down towards COVID-19 and pledged to make extra assessments and coverings accessible. On Wednesday, his crew unveiled plans to get began.
The brand new Nationwide COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, which officers stated would require motion from Congress – focuses on holding companies and faculties open, enhancing entry to testing and therapy, and stopping future public well being crises.
“By defending towards and treating covid, making ready for any new variants, stopping financial and college shutdowns, and vaccinating the world and saving lives, the president’s COVID-19 Preparedness Plan will allow us to maneuver ahead safely to get again to our extra regular routines,” stated White Home Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients at a Wednesday briefing.
Zients elaborated on the “check to deal with” initiative the president talked about throughout his State of the Union deal with on Tuesday, which might increase entry to antiviral drugs and different COVID-19 remedies.
This month, lots of of one-stop websites will open throughout the nation that may enable folks to obtain therapy for COVID-19 instantly after testing optimistic, Zients stated. Areas will embody native pharmacy clinics, neighborhood well being facilities, long-term care services, and veterans’ well being services.
Congressional leaders have already been briefed on the necessity for near-term funding to safe extra vaccines, antivirals remedies, and continued vaccines analysis, the White Home stated. The quantity wanted was not disclosed.
Prime infectious illness knowledgeable Anthony S. Fauci, MD, stated the plan’s deal with vaccine analysis and growth would assist to make sure that any “up to date vaccines could be developed, permitted and manufactured in roughly 100 days.”
Together with increasing entry to viral remedies and assessments, Biden’s new plan would deal with lengthy COVID and psychological well being by directing the federal authorities to speed up its efforts to detect, stop and deal with these points.
Zients known as the president’s plan “strong and complete,” however famous, “the execution of the plan requires extra funding from Congress.”
Some 950,000 Individuals have died from COVID-19, however Biden didn’t point out the pandemic once more till 36 minutes into his speech. He first addressed the Russian invasion of Ukraine, inflation, and the infrastructure regulation.
Later, Biden revealed a brand new “check to deal with” program through which individuals who check optimistic for coronavirus at a pharmacy will probably be supplied Pfizer’s antiviral Paxlovid totally free, “on the spot.” The capsule reduces the prospect of hospitalization by 90%, the president stated. Pfizer will present the U.S. authorities with 1 million drugs in March and greater than 2 million in April.
What’s extra, beginning the week of March 7, a brand new batch of COVID-19 assessments will probably be made accessible for Individuals to order for house supply by way of COVIDtests.gov. The president additionally famous that he plans to ask Congress for extra money to maintain funding free vaccines, assessments, masks, and coverings.
Final yr, the president didn’t give a standard State of the Union, as an alternative making an deal with to a joint session of Congress virtually 100 days after he took workplace. The viewers was restricted on account of COVID-related social distancing restrictions.
For this yr’s deal with, attendees have been required to take a COVID-19 check earlier than coming into the Home of Representatives chambers. However given the brand new CDC steering issued Feb. 25 that relaxed masks guidelines, the 535 members of Congress, visitors, and dignitaries who have been invited to this yr’s occasion weren’t required to put on masks.
However some Republicans refused to attend over the COVID testing requirement.
“I’m NOT permitted on the Home flooring tonight even if the seventeenth District of Florida voted me to signify them within the Individuals’s Home as a result of I didn’t undergo all of Dictator Pelosi’s medical protocol and COVID testing,” Florida Rep. Greg Steube stated in a tweet.
In the meantime, “I’m sporting a masks tonight on the #SOTU as a result of all of us have to keep in mind that the immunocompromised and people over 60 stay at greater danger of extreme sickness and hospitalization from COVID-19,” Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts stated on Twitter.
Divisions over COVID-related restrictions and COVID vaccines are additionally obvious in polling. Whereas 62% of adults in a Kaiser Household Basis poll stated they suppose the worst of the pandemic “is behind us,” extra Democrats and independents than Republicans stated that lifting restrictions might improve the variety of deaths and go away immune-compromised folks behind.
Biden indicated that he would proceed to carry extra restrictions, saying it’s “time for Individuals to get again to work” and “our youngsters should be in class.”
He additionally urged Individuals to “cease COVID-19 as a partisan dividing line and see it for what it’s: A God-awful illness.”
“Let’s cease seeing one another as enemies and begin seeing one another for who we actually are: fellow Individuals,” the president stated.