Now that the Omicron variant is sweeping across the nation, President Joe Biden decided to give a press conference on the latest developments. Today’s (Jan. 4) briefing started with updates on the continued work toward controlling the highly contagious – but not as deadly or severe – virus. The main agenda for this briefing appeared to be a strong push for people to get vaccinated as well as get boosters.
The president said there is a continued rise in cases, “much different than anything we’ve seen before.” Throughout the briefing, Biden repeated the need for everyone to get vaccinated but did allow that even fully inoculated people can still get the virus. “Be concerned about Omicron,” he said, “but don’t be alarmed.” Seeming to contradict himself, he went on to threaten: “If you’re not vaccinated, you should be alarmed,” adding:
“There’s no excuse for anyone being unvaccinated. This continues to be a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Surround your kids with those who are vaccinated.”
Schools, Biden suggested, should still remain open, “kids are safe in schools.” The government has provided $130 billion to states to help in-person education continue and an additional $10 billion for testing.
Biden continued praising the ongoing process to get COVID under control. Military has been deployed to help overworked medical staff, and FEMA is on standby to provide beds where needed.
There were three “updates” he wanted to stress:
Booster shots: “We have booster shots for every American in the country,” the president asserted. Mimicking Dr. Anthony Fauci, he said booster shots work, because Fauci says so. The Food and Drug Administration has approved them for children ages 12 to 15, which will be available as early as next week.
Testing: This is a tricky area. While the president extols the many testing sites available for Americans, some states have seen these services hobbled by overwhelming numbers of people seeking a test.
Biden also assured that starting next week, insurance companies will reimburse anyone who uses an at-home test, although many companies do not accept the results as valid enough to permit a return to work. There was a shortage of at-home tests in retail stores and pharmacies, which the president assured was only temporary. In the meantime, he explained government services and health care providers offer free testing and announced a new website, set to launch this month, that will give people the ability to request test kits delivered to their homes. In the meantime, the commander-in-chief suggested doing a Google search to find out more information.
Treatment: Testing and vaccinations aside, there is hope that a new Pfizer pill will help to reduce hospitalizations and deaths. Biden said he ordered a shipment of 10 million pills and has now doubled that order. “We’ve already placed the largest order in the world, and now I’m increasing that order,” he declared. The problem, however, is that “it takes months, literally, to make a pill.”
Today’s brief speech did not bring much of anything new to the table. As usual, the president did not take any questions from the reporters. He did, however, end his speech with this pearl: “There’s a lot of reason to be hopeful in 2020 (sic).”
~ Read more from Kelli Ballard.