UNITED STATES NEWS

Pushing COVID-19 boosters, Biden says ‘we need to be ready’

Dec 2, 2021, 5:30 AM | Updated: Dec 3, 2021, 2:17 pm
President Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 variant named omicron during a visit to the National ...

President Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 variant named omicron during a visit to the National Institutes of Health, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, in Bethesda, Md. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — With rising numbers of COVID-19 cases predicted this winter, President Joe Biden on Thursday appealed for Americans to get their boosters and get behind his plan to tackle the new omicron variant through wider availability of vaccines and shots, but without new major restrictions on daily life.

Biden wants to require private insurers to cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests and he is tightening testing requirements for people entering the United States, regardless of their vaccination status. While some other countries are closing their borders or reinstituting lockdowns, the president said he would not at this time impose additional clampdowns beyond his recommendation that Americans wear masks indoors in public settings.

“Experts say the COVID-19 cases will continue to rise in the weeks ahead this winter, so we need to be ready,” Biden said during a visit to the National Institutes of Health in suburban Maryland after a briefing with scientific advisers.

He said his new strategy “doesn’t include shutdowns and lockdowns,” and he hoped for bipartisan backing.

“My plan I’m announcing today pulls no punches in the fight against COVID-19, and it’s a plan that I think should unite us,” he Biden said.

Legal challenges have held up Biden’s vaccination-or-testing requirement for workers at larger employers, and that’s led the president to urge businesses to impose their own mandates so companies can stay open without outbreaks.

His administration has come to view widespread adoption of booster shots as its most effective tool for combating COVID-19 this winter. Medical experts say boosters provide enhanced and more enduring protection, including against new variants.

Much remains unknown about the omicron variant, such as whether it is more contagious, makes people more seriously ill and can thwart the vaccines. Officials said Thursday that a second case of the variant had been confirmed in the United States.

About 100 million Americans are eligible for boosters under current U.S. policy, with more becoming eligible every day. Officials believe that persuading the vaccinated to get another dose will be easier than vaccinating the roughly 43 million adult Americans who haven’t gotten a shot.

“Go get your booster now,” Biden said.

Seniors are in the population most vulnerable to the virus, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will send a notice to all 63 million Medicare beneficiaries encouraging them to get booster doses, the White House said. The AARP will work with the administration on education campaigns for seniors.

So far about 42 million Americans, about half of them seniors, have received a booster dose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week broadened its booster dose recommendation to cover all Americans at least age 18, starting six months after their second dose of the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna.

Biden said the CDC is developing new guidance for schools in an effort to reduce or eliminate current quarantine requirements for those not fully vaccinated and exposed to the virus. That could include “test-to-stay” policies, in which those considered close contacts can continue to go to school but wear masks and undergo serial testing, in an effort to minimize learning loss and disruption.

The rule that private insurers cover at-home testing is being drafted, and details remain to be worked out, officials said.

People insured by Medicare and Medicaid would not be eligible, but the White House said as many as 150 million people with private insurance would see easier and cheaper access to the at-home tests. The administration said it is making 50 million COVID-19 tests free for older people and other vulnerable groups for pickup at senior centers and community sites.

Beginning next week, Biden said, all travelers to the U.S., regardless of nationality or vaccination status, will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within one day of boarding flights. That compares with three days now for those who have been vaccinated. The White House has shelved tougher options such as requiring post-arrival testing or requiring quarantines upon arrival in the U.S.

The White House has not yet acted to require domestic U.S. travelers to be vaccinated or get tested. Officials believe such a requirement would be mired in litigation.

“We base our decisions on the advice of the health and medical experts, what’s going to be most effective and what we can implement,” press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday.

Biden is extending his directive requiring masks on airplanes and other public transit, which had been set to expire in January, through at least the middle of March, the White House said.

The administration is informing states that it has more than 60 teams available to help them or their municipalities address surges in cases and public health shortages heading into the winter.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

United States News

FILE - Judge J. Michelle Childs, who was nominated by President Barack Obama to the U.S. District C...
Associated Press

At least 3 judges eyed as Biden mulls Supreme Court pick

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is eyeing at least three judges for an expected vacancy on the Supreme Court as he prepares to quickly deliver on his campaign pledge to nominate the first Black woman to the nation’s highest court, according to aides and allies. With Justice Stephen Breyer planning to retire, early discussions […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Another Navy officer pleads guilty in wide-spanning scandal

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A U.S. Navy commander admitted in federal court to sending a Malaysian defense contractor classified ship schedules for the Navy’s 7th Fleet in exchange for extravagant meals, luxury travel, cash and the services of prostitutes. Commander Stephen Shedd is the third member of the 7th Fleet to plead guilty to bribery […]
19 hours ago
FILE - Cristina Licup receives her COVID-19 booster shot where she works at the Hebrew Home at Rive...
Associated Press

Vaccine mandate to kick in for first wave of health workers

Health care workers in about half the states face a Thursday deadline to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine under a Biden administration mandate that will be rolled out across the rest of the country in the coming weeks. While the requirement is welcomed by some, others fear it will worsen already serious […]
19 hours ago
FILE - Stewart Rhodes, founder of the citizen militia group known as the Oath Keepers speaks during...
Associated Press

Magistrate orders Oath Keepers leader jailed until trial

PLANO, Texas (AP) — The founder and leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group must remain behind bars until he goes on trial on sedition charges arising from last year’s assault on the U.S. Capitol, a federal magistrate ruled Wednesday. Stewart Rhodes had been jailed sincehis Jan. 13 arrest on charges that he plotted […]
19 hours ago
This image released by Sony Pictures Television shows contestant Amy Schneider on the set of "Jeopa...
Associated Press

‘Jeopardy!’ champ Amy Schneider opens a new chapter for show

LOS ANGELES (AP) — One word made all the difference Wednesday on “Jeopardy!” Champion Amy Schneider’s dazzling streak on the quiz show is over, snapped by a Chicago librarian after 40 consecutive wins and nearly $1.4 million in prize money. Schneider’s success put her in the ranks of Ken Jennings, who’s serving as guest host, […]
19 hours ago
State Sen. Kevin Blackwell, R-Southaven, lead negotiator, holds a tube containing a cigarette and a...
Associated Press

Medical marijuana bill passes, heads to Mississipi governor

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi lawmakers are sending their governor a bill that would create a medical marijuana program for people with serious medical conditions. If it becomes law, as anticipated, Mississippi would join the majority of states that let people use cannabis for medical reasons. The House and Senate on Wednesday both passed the […]
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

HVAC upkeep in Arizona saves money, keeps families prepared in the long run

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
...
Canvas Annuity

Annuity basics: how to retire with a guaranteed paycheck for life

Does the thought of retirement fill you with stress or with happiness? Everyone wants to spend their retirement in a way that brings them the most joy, whether that’s traveling the world or spending extra time at home with grandkids.
...
PNC BANK

How your family can explore the Musical Instrument Museum

Whether you want to spend a day with family, do crafts with kids at home, or have an adult night out, the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix has options. As the world’s only global musical instrument museum, MIM offers interactive and immersive exhibits to foster an appreciation of different cultures and their instruments. “A visit […]
Pushing COVID-19 boosters, Biden says ‘we need to be ready’