US President Joe Biden on Tuesday unveiled his plan to fight the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus, CBS News reports.
In a speech at the White House, Biden announced that starting January, Americans will be able to request rapid tests through a website and have them delivered, free of cost.
In addition, 1,000 members of the military will be deployed to help staff medical facilities caring for COVID-19 patients. He also announced plans to send out additional ventilators and equipment from the national stockpile besides expanding hospital capacity to handle infected patients.
Biden further announced that the government will establish new testing sites and use the Defense Production Act to help manufacture more tests. There will also be pop-up vaccination sites, hundreds of new people to administer the vaccines and new rules that make it easier for pharmacists to work across state lines.
The President appealed directly to the unvaccinated, telling them that they have a duty to their country to get their shots. Giving a nod to the Trump administration, he said that "thanks to the previous administration" and the scientific community, the US was one of the first countries to distribute vaccines.
He also encouraged Americans to not be shocked by positive cases of the Omicron variant among the vaccinated.
"There will be positive cases in every office, even in the White House, among the vaccinated, from Omicron, but these cases are highly unlikely to lead to serious illness,” Biden stated.
Biden’s remarks came a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that Omicron is now the dominant version of the coronavirus in the US, accounting for 73% of new infections last week.
Also on Monday, the US recorded its first death from the Omicron variant, an unvaccinated Houston man in his 50s with underlying health conditions.
On Sunday, top US pandemic advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci warned of a “bleak winter” ahead as Omicron spurs a new wave of infections globally.
"One thing that's very clear... is (Omicron's) extraordinary capability of spreading," Fauci told NBC News. "It is just... raging through to the world."