**FILE** President Joe Biden, joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, delivers remarks on the COVID-19 National Month of Action on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

President Biden on Tuesday announced new actions aimed at protecting Americans and helping communities and hospitals battle omicron.

Among the actions are plans to distribute 500 million free at-home rapid COVID-19 tests beginning in January, which the White House called another attempt to double down on the spread of the new variant.

According to health officials, omicron now accounts for about 75% of all cases.

The president’s announcement builds on the robust plan he announced earlier this month to get people maximum protection ahead of the winter and prepare for rising cases driven by the new variant.

“We know how to protect people from severe illness, we have the tools needed to do it, and thanks to the president’s Winter Plan, already 73% of adult Americans are fully vaccinated — up less than 1% before the president took office — and we are getting about 1 million booster shots in arms each day,” The White House said in a fact sheet.

Vaccines are free and readily available at 90,000 convenient locations, and there’s clear guidance on masking and other measures that help slow the spread of COVID-19, officials said.

The administration said federal emergency medical teams are ready to respond to surges nationwide.

“Our vaccines are the most powerful tools we have — they work to protect people from serious illness and death, and boosters provide people optimal protection,” administration officials said in the fact sheet. “While cases among vaccinated individuals will likely increase due to the more transmissible omicron, evidence to date is that their cases will most likely be mild. In contrast, unvaccinated individuals are at high risk of getting COVID-19, getting severely ill, and even dying.

“[Biden’s] actions will mitigate the impact unvaccinated individuals have on our health care system, while increasing access to free testing and getting more shots in arms to keep people safe and our schools and economy open,” the fact sheet said.

Included in the president’s actions are:

•   Increased support for hospitals.
•   Deploying additional medical personnel.
•   Mobilizing an additional 1,000 troops to deploy to COVID-19-burdened hospitals. 
•   Deploying federal medical personnel available to states immediately.
•   Expanding hospital capacity.
•   Activating FEMA response teams to help states and hospitals add capacity now.   
•   Providing ongoing support to states to help hospitals create and license more beds.
•   Deploying hundreds of ambulances and emergency medical teams to transport patients to open beds. 
•   Providing critical supplies.
•   Pre-positioning critical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile.   
•   Deploying ventilators to states.
•   Robust access to free testing.
•   Standing up new federal testing sites.
•   Distributing free, rapid tests to Americans. 
•   Utilizing the defense production act to further accelerate production.   
•   Expanding capacity to get shots in arms.
•   Standing up new pop-up vaccination clinics.
•   Deploying additional vaccinators.
•   Allowing flexibility to surge pharmacy teams.
•   Continuing to scale pharmacy capacity.

Stacy M. Brown

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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