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Biden rolls out plan to protect Americans against the Omicron variant

Part of the plan includes a return to masking up on airlines and public transportation

COVID-19 Omicron variant concept
Photo (c) franckreporter - Getty Images
Determined to keep the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in check, President Biden has announced new actions to combat the coronavirus as the U.S. 

With the lessons the country has learned over the past year and the strides made in vaccines, Biden said he is confident about his plans. However, he says Americans need to remain vigilant.

“The United States has come far in its fight against the virus and is more prepared than ever to deal with the challenges of COVID-19. We have the public health tools we need to continue to fight this virus without shutting down our schools and businesses,” Biden said in a statement. 

“As we head into winter, today, the President will announce actions to provide additional protection to Americans and fight the Omicron and Delta variants, while keeping our economy growing.”

What Biden’s plan calls for

Biden’s plan contains nine essentials that his team says will keep the Omicron variant at bay. They include:

  • Boosters for all adults. The White House said the Biden administration will build on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) updated guidance recommending that every adult get a booster. As a sneak preview of what Americans can expect, the White House said the new steps will “ensure that the nearly 100 million eligible Americans who have not yet gotten their booster shot, get one as soon as possible.”

  • Vaccinations to protect our kids and keep our schools open. With 99% of schools across the country fully open and holding in-person classes, Biden wants to get that part of his agenda over the finish line as soon as possible. To keep those schools open and get more kids aged 5 and older vaccinated, hundreds of family vaccination clinics will be launched to get the whole family vaccinated or boosted in a single “trusted and convenient” location. 

  • Expanding free at-home testing for Americans. Biden wants to ensure that Americans have greater access to at-home testing. For those who aren’t covered by private health insurance, arrangements are being made to distribute free at-home tests at 20,000 sites around the country. 

  • Stronger public health protocols for safe international travel. Travelers who enjoyed the recent lifting of international travel requirements should feel lucky because two things are about to be reversed. Beginning early next week, the U.S. will tighten pre-departure testing protocols by requiring inbound international travelers to test within one day of departure, regardless of nationality or vaccination status. Secondly, everyone will have to mask up during international or other public travel – as well as in transportation hubs such as airports or indoor bus terminals. Those rules are scheduled to last through at least March 18. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is also adding a bit of a punch to those who don’t follow that rule. The agency plans to double fines for noncompliance from a minimum of $500. Repeat offenders could face fines of up to $3,000.

  • Protections in workplaces to keep our economy open. The President is not laying down any new mandates, but he is calling on businesses to continue to move forward expeditiously on requiring workers to get vaccinated or tested weekly. 

  • Rapid response teams to help battle rising cases. If pandemic conditions start to turn ugly because of the Omicron variant, the White House said it’s prepared to deploy additional COVID-19 Surge Response Teams to address critical needs on the ground. Those plans include allowances for more personnel, therapeutics, and technical expertise. 

  • Supplying treatment pills to help prevent hospitalizations and death. The President is ensuring that if and when any new COVID-19 treatment pills have been found to meet the FDA’s scientific standards, they will be made equitably accessible to all Americans, regardless of their income or where they live.

  • Continued commitment to global vaccination efforts. To help other countries out, the U.S. will be donating 1.2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses. The Biden administration is also pledging to deliver 200 million more doses in the next 100 days: 

  • Steps to ensure we are prepared for all scenarios. Lastly, because the full effects of what the Omicron variant can do are still emerging, Biden said he will use every available source necessary to keep it from spinning out of control. To that end, he said his administration is working closely with executives at Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson to develop contingency plans for other vaccinations or boosters.

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