The middle-of-the-week greetings are in order. The Biden administration appreciates your participation in today’s press call to share details of their COVID immunization winter readiness plan.
Keep in mind that “top administration officials” have requested that this call remain anonymous. The embargo will remain in effect until Monday at 5:00 a.m. Just before we got on the phone and I started chatting, you should have gotten a fact sheet. So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce [senior administration official] who will be describing the plan and answering your questions.
Since, as Kevin mentioned, the data sheet should already be in your inboxes, I’ll keep this as quick as possible. The number of reported cases of COVID has increased in some regions after Thanksgiving, as was predicted. Even though COVID isn’t as much of a threat as it used to be, the winter holiday season still sees a significant increase in the number of people spending time inside their homes, which means the virus will spread more swiftly than usual.
The first principle of the Biden administration’s COVID response, and the basis upon which we have delivered, has been readiness for everything the virus may hurl at us. There is nothing special about this particular time.
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We want to make sure we’re ready for any spikes in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations this winter, so we’re unveiling our Winter COVID-19 Preparedness Plan today. Several distinct goals are at the heart of our strategy. First, we need to make it simpler for people in the United States to get their hands on immunizations, diagnostic tests and therapies that have been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death.
Get your updated COVID vaccine as soon as possible to ensure a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) December 18, 2022
Second, we are prepared to assist localities and states with staff, materials and other resources to increase the number of available vaccinations and respond to emergent clinical requirements. Third, working with states to speed up the process of updating immunizations in order to safeguard the most vulnerable Americans in nursing homes and other long-term care institutions.
Now, I’ll elaborate on a few crucial points of the strategy. To begin, beginning tomorrow, individuals and families can go to COVIDTests.gov and request four free at-home exams to be delivered right to their front doors. Shipping will begin the week of the 19th, and each household will receive four free tests (regardless of how many tests they have previously ordered).
This is in addition to the eight free tests covered by most health insurance plans per person per month, as well as the thousands of community-based places around the U.S., such as community health clinics, schools, and long-term care facilities, where people may get free testing this winter.
In the absence of congressional funding, we have made do with what we have to increase the number of at-home tests in the national stockpile and so reopen COVIDTests.gov for a limited time.
Second, we are emphasizing to governors and local leaders that they are integral parts of the solution and are requesting their assistance in getting more people vaccinated, including through mobile and pop-up vaccination clinics, and in expanding access to testing and treatments, including through more test-to-treat sites, before the winter sets in. We’re here to lend a hand in any way we can, whether that’s by making federal employees available to be deployed at the request of states to handle urgent needs or by having things like respirators and other life-saving supplies on hand and ready to ship out to states in advance.
Third, we are making use of our advanced surveillance technologies to keep an eye out for any new Omicron subvariants that may crop up anywhere in the world. Through methods such as genome sequencing to detect the virus’s progression and wastewater surveillance and traveler-based genomic surveillance to track trends, we will keep tabs on this virus and speak openly about what we are observing and what we know.
Last but not least, we are concentrating on the most vulnerable members of society, such as the elderly in nursing homes. We have the means to avert death and serious disease and we demand immediate action from every nursing facility. Because of this, we are developing a winter survival guide for assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Updated immunizations care for those who test positive, and better indoor air quality is the primary topics of this one-page summary.
We’re also reaching out to governors in states with low immunization rates in elder homes to assist train more personnel to provide injections
Just one last thing before I sign out. In this very instant, we are aware of the proper course of action to take. We have the resources, infrastructure, and expertise to manage this period so that fewer people are hospitalized or killed, fewer interruptions occur, and we can meet any obstacles head-on. It’s up to each individual to do their share.
This includes getting tested for COVID-19 and obtaining treatment as soon as possible if you test positive, as well as acquiring the most up-to-date COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it becomes available.
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Simply double-checking — please accept my apologies. We’re doing everything we can to aid states and local communities and make it easier for folks who are capable of doing these things to actually accomplish them. And we’re prepared for whatever the winter brings.
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