Biden sending emergency teams to Arizona as part of omicron response plan
PHOENIX – Arizona is among the states being targeted by President Joe Biden for a surge of federal resources to combat the omicron variant of COVID-19, the White House announced Tuesday.
Emergency response teams are heading to Arizona, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Vermont, according to a fact sheet outlining changes to the president’s winter COVID plan.
“Federal assistance is most welcome, but with the extraordinarily contagious omicron overtaking delta as the nation’s dominant variant, Arizonans need to help as well by getting vaccinated,” Arizona Department of Health Services spokesman Steve Elliott told KTAR News 92.3 FM in an email.
The federal teams are on top of 300 medical personnel already deployed in response to the highly contagious omicron variant, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said accounted for nearly three-quarters of the new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. last week.
Earlier this month, ADHS sought out federal assistance on behalf of seven hospitals facing staffing shortages. Elliott said the resources being deployed to Arizona are in response to that request, although he didn’t have all the details yet.
“We expect the resources announced to be for two Arizona hospitals: Yuma Regional Medical Center and Canyon Vista Medical Center in Cochise County,” he said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is also deploying hundreds of ambulances and paramedic teams nationwide. Elliott said 20 paramedics were on their way to the Yuma and Cochise hospitals.
Biden updated the nation about changes to the federal COVID response at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
A cornerstone of the plan is his decision for the government to purchase 500 million coronavirus rapid tests and ship them free to Americans starting in January. People will use a new website to order their tests, which will then be sent to them by U.S. mail at no charge.
It marks a major shift for Biden, who earlier had called for many Americans to purchase the hard-to-find tests on their own and then seek reimbursement from their health insurance.
While the omicron outbreak is prompting a more aggressive federal response, Biden promised there would not be a mass lockdown of schools or businesses.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.