March 2, 2022 — In his first State of the Union tackle on Tuesday night, President Joe Biden urged Individuals to not let their guard down in opposition to COVID-19 and pledged to make extra checks and coverings obtainable. On Wednesday, his staff unveiled plans to get began.
The brand new Nationwide COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, which officers mentioned would require motion from Congress – focuses on protecting companies and faculties open, enhancing entry to testing and remedy, and stopping future public well being crises.
“By defending in opposition to and treating covid, getting 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,” mentioned White Home Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients at a Wednesday briefing.
Zients elaborated on the “take a look at to deal with” initiative the president talked about throughout his State of the Union tackle on Tuesday, which might develop entry to antiviral drugs and different COVID-19 remedies.
This month, a whole bunch of one-stop websites will open throughout the nation that can enable individuals to obtain remedy for COVID-19 instantly after testing optimistic, Zients mentioned. Areas will embrace 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 mentioned. The quantity wanted was not disclosed.
High infectious illness knowledgeable Anthony S. Fauci, MD, mentioned the plan’s deal with vaccine analysis and improvement would assist to make sure that any “up to date vaccines may be developed, authorized and manufactured in roughly 100 days.”
Together with increasing entry to viral remedies and checks, Biden’s new plan would tackle lengthy COVID and psychological well being by directing the federal authorities to speed up its efforts to detect, forestall and deal with these points.
Zients referred to as the president’s plan “sturdy 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 legislation.
Later, Biden revealed a brand new “take a look at to deal with” program by which individuals who take a look at optimistic for coronavirus at a pharmacy will probably be provided Pfizer’s antiviral Paxlovid free of charge, “on the spot.” The tablet reduces the prospect of hospitalization by 90%, the president mentioned. 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 checks will probably be made obtainable for Individuals to order for house supply via COVIDtests.gov. The president additionally famous that he plans to ask Congress for extra money to maintain funding free vaccines, checks, masks, and coverings.
Final yr, the president didn’t give a conventional State of the Union, as an alternative making an tackle to a joint session of Congress nearly 100 days after he took workplace. The viewers was restricted attributable to COVID-related social distancing restrictions.
For this yr’s tackle, attendees have been required to take a COVID-19 take a look at earlier than coming into the Home of Representatives chambers. However given the brand new CDC steerage issued Feb. 25 that relaxed masks guidelines, the 535 members of Congress, friends, 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 ground tonight even if the seventeenth District of Florida voted me to symbolize them within the Folks’s Home as a result of I didn’t undergo all of Dictator Pelosi’s medical protocol and COVID testing,” Florida Rep. Greg Steube mentioned in a tweet.
In the meantime, “I’m sporting a masks tonight on the #SOTU as a result of all of us must keep in mind that the immunocompromised and people over 60 stay at larger danger of extreme sickness and hospitalization from COVID-19,” Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts mentioned 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 mentioned they suppose the worst of the pandemic “is behind us,” extra Democrats and independents than Republicans mentioned that lifting restrictions may enhance the variety of deaths and depart immune-compromised individuals 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 must be at school.”
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 mentioned.