President Biden Outlines U.S. COVID-19 ‘Winter Plan’

On Thursday, President Biden announced a “winter plan” to combat COVID-19 as the United States heads into the cold months and with the emergence of a new variant, Omicron.

“It doesn’t include shutdowns or lockdowns, but widespread vaccinations and boosters and testing a lot more,” Biden said while giving remarks at the National Institute of Health.

“And while my existing federal vaccination requirements are being reviewed by the courts, this plan does not expand or add to those mandates — a plan that all Americans hopefully can rally around, and it should get bipartisan support, in my humble opinion,” the president said.

The “winter plan” includes hundreds of vaccination sites aimed at families, booster shots for all adults, insurance reimbursement for at-home coronavirus tests and fresh travel restrictions, including a requirement that international travelers must show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within a day before departing for the United States.

A big part of the plan is a renewed push to get people vaccinated, including the latest group to become eligible: children ages 5-11. The administration plans to launch “hundreds of family vaccination clinics” that will offer vaccinations and boosters for people of all eligible ages, according to a fact sheet provided by the White House.

“We want our children in school; we are going to take new steps to make sure it stays that way,” Biden said. “But, again, the best step is to vaccinate your children.”

The president also announced a national campaign to reach the 100 million Americans who are eligible for booster shots and have not had them. The campaign will include paid advertising and free rides to vaccination sites coordinated by AARP, the advocacy group for older Americans.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will launch what the administration is calling Family Mobile Vaccination Clinics, beginning with deployments to Washington and New Mexico. The goal is for states and localities to replicate the model “with full federal funding and support,” officials said.

Biden said the administration doesn’t believe additional measures are needed at the moment but is developing contingency plans to develop new vaccines and boosters if they’re needed to fight omicron.

“My team is already working with officials at Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson to develop contingency plans for other vaccines or boosters,” Biden said. “And I’ll also direct the FDA and the CDC to use the fastest process available — without cutting corners, for safety — to get such vaccines reviewed and approved if needed.”

The White House is asking businesses with 100 or more employees to voluntarily move forward with the administration’s requirements to get their staff vaccinated or tested weekly by Jan. 4. A federal appellate court put the policy on hold pending review last month, citing constitutional concerns. The administration says it’s on firm legal ground and expects to win the case.

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