WASHINGTON D.C. — With the rapid spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19, President Biden announced new actions in an attempt to combat the virus.
While Biden was scheduled to speak on Dec. 21, the White House provided details on his updated COVID-19 winter plan.
A major update to his plan is the decision for the U.S. government to purchase 500 million at-home COVID-19 rapid tests and ship them free to anyone who orders them, beginning in January.
The federal government will also establish new testing sites, with the first being opened in New York City this week, and use the Defense Production Act to help manufacture more tests.
To help hospitals that are quickly nearing capacity, the U.S. will deploy an additional 1,000 service members, including military doctors, nurses, paramedics and other medical personnel during January and February as needed.
Biden also announced six emergency response teams, which will include more than 100 clinical personnel and paramedics who have started deploying to Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Arizona, New Hampshire and Vermont. These teams are in addition to the 300 federal medical personnel who were already deployed.
The plans also include sending out additional ventilators and equipment from the national stockpile, expanding hospital capacity.
FEMA is also scheduled to start opening pop-up sites “in areas of high demand” for vaccines.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that there are no plans of another lockdown.
“This is not a speech about locking the country down,” she said. “This is a speech about the benefits of being vaccinated.”