As Omicron Soars, Biden Pronounces Hospital Reduction, Free Assessments

Dec. 21, 2021 — With the Omicron variant of the coronavirus blazing throughout the US, President Joe Biden supplied reassurance on Tuesday to People who’ve adopted public well being steering to get vaccinated and boosted, and delivered a stark warning to those that haven’t.

“As a result of Omicron spreads so simply, we’ll see some absolutely vaccinated individuals get COVID. Probably in massive numbers,” the president mentioned. “These instances are extremely unlikely to result in severe sickness. Vaccinated individuals who get COVID could get ailing, however they’re shielded from extreme sickness and dying.”

However he mentioned the nation was not again to sq. one with COVID-19.

“This isn’t March of 2020,” he mentioned.

Along with the warning, Biden outlined plans to assist the nation reply to Omicron, together with the acquisition of 500 million fast checks for at-home use and navy assist for careworn hospitals.

He mentioned vaccinated individuals ought to maintain their plans to have fun the vacations, particularly if celebrating with different vaccinated individuals.

However he cautioned the estimated 40 million eligible People who stay unvaccinated.

“Omicron is severe and maybe lethal enterprise for unvaccinated individuals,” Biden mentioned. “A few of you’ll get very sick.”

He mentioned hospitals would proceed to be dangerously careworn, each by way of tools and staffing.

To assist ease staffing shortages, Biden mentioned he had deployed six emergency response groups together with clinic personnel and paramedics to 6 states: Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

He will even ship 1,000 navy docs and nurses to overwhelmed amenities to ease calls for. He’s additionally activating the Federal Emergency Administration Company and the Nationwide Response Coordination Middle to assist with planning and logistics. He mentioned vital provides like ventilators, masks, robes, and gloves would even be supplied.

Hospital advocates applauded the assistance.

“The Biden Administration’s announcement in the present day to deploy extra medical personnel to COVID-burdened hospitals and stand-up new mass vaccination websites throughout the nation will assist alleviate among the burden on the nation’s already overwhelmed well being care workforce,” mentioned Gerald Harmon, MD, president of the American Medical Affiliation.

Harmon urged all who have been eligible to get vaccinated and boosted to additional ease the pressure.

“We proceed to induce the Administration to make use of all obtainable instruments at their disposal and never go away any sources or help on the sidelines,” Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Affiliation, mentioned in a written assertion.

Week to week, instances of COVID-19 attributable to the Omicron variant have soared. Estimates by the CDC present Omicron inflicting roughly 13% of instances within the week ending Dec. 11. By Tuesday, Omicron was inflicting about 74% of instances.

“I’ve labored in infectious illness for 30 years. I’ve NEVER seen something just like the pace of Omicron,” former CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, posted on Twitter.

For the unique coronavirus, the fundamental reproductive fee — the typical variety of individuals contaminated as contacts of a single case — was 2.5. For the Delta variant, that quantity rose to round 7. The fundamental reproductive fee of Omicron could also be as excessive as 10.

On Tuesday, Biden acknowledged the nation was caught off guard.

“I don’t assume anyone anticipated that this was going to be as quickly spreading because it did,” he mentioned.

He acknowledged that checks and testing providers have been briefly provide.

“Impulsively, it was like all people rushed to the counter. It was a giant, large rush,” he mentioned.

He promised extra checks could be on the best way. He mentioned new testing websites could be opened in areas of excessive demand like New York Metropolis, the place individuals have been ready in line for hours to get examined.

Biden introduced he would proceed to make use of the Protection Manufacturing Act to ease the availability crunch for COVID-19 checks, buying 500 million checks that may be despatched to People totally free by a brand new web site, which hasn’t but been launched.

A lot of the particulars of who can get the free checks, and what number of they’ll get at a time, are nonetheless being labored out, White Home press secretary Jen Psaki mentioned in a briefing earlier than the president’s speech.

Public coverage specialists cheered the announcement.

“The U.S. has been a little bit bit behind the curve in phrases not simply getting the checks out, however transferring the testing know-how alongside in comparison with European international locations,” mentioned Jeffrey Levi, PhD, a professor of well being coverage and administration at George Washington College’s Milken Faculty of Public Well being.

The five hundred million extra checks that have been introduced Tuesday are an additional step, past the promise made in Biden’s winter plan, to have non-public insurers cowl the prices of at-home checks.

“This looks like a serious step ahead,” mentioned Levi. “It stays to be seen whether or not that manufacturing capability may be met.”

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