White House Details COVID-19 Strategy for Winter
On Thursday, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. announced a series of new actions to protect Americans from COVID-19, including the Delta and Omicron variants, this winter. The Administration’s new actions come as additional cases of the Omicron variant continue to be identified in the U.S. and globally.
The new set of actions include:
- Boosters for All Adults – President Biden will announce steps to ensure that the nearly 100 million eligible Americans who have not received their booster shot to receive one as soon as possible. The CDC updated its booster guidance, recommending that all adults receive a booster dose. As part of this broader push for booster doses, the Administration announced expanded booster availability at federal pharmacy chains, new public education efforts, a partnership with AARP, and notices to Medicare beneficiaries encouraging vaccination.
- Vaccinations to Protect Kids and Keep Schools Open – The Biden-Harris Administration reiterated its approach to getting more children ages five and older vaccinated and keeping schools open for in-person instruction. President Biden announced a new effort to launch hundreds of family vaccination clinics throughout the country, as well as a new requirement for Medicaid to pay health care providers to talk to families about getting their children vaccinated. Medicaid will cover COVID-19 vaccine counseling visits for children and youth up to age 21 with 100 percent federal funding throughout the public health emergency and the following year. The Administration is additionally reviewing school COVID-19 prevention policies and expressed support of an independent scientific review of a vaccine for those under age 5.
- Expanding Free At-Home Testing – To expand access and affordability of COVID-19 tests, HHS, the Department of Labor, and the Treasury will issue guidance by January 15 to clarify that individuals who purchase OTC COVID-19 diagnostic tests will be able to seek reimbursement from their group health plan or health insurance issuer and have the insurance cover the cost during the public health emergency. For uninsured and underserved communities, the Administration is expanding community distribution of free tests through neighborhood sites such as health centers and rural clinics.
- Stronger Public Health Protocols for International Travel – The U.S. is strengthening its pre-departure testing protocols by requiring all inbound international travelers to test within one day of departure globally, regardless of nationality or vaccination status. The Administration is also extending the requirement to wear a mask on airplanes, rail, and public transit through March 18, 2022. The requirement was previously set to expire next month.
- Protecting Workplaces to Keep Businesses Open – The President calls on businesses to continue to take steps to ensure worker protection by requiring their workers to get vaccinated or tested weekly.
- Rapid Response Teams to Battle Rising Cases – The Administration will continue to ensure states have help they need as they battle rising COVID-19 cases, including through deploying over 60 federal teams of health and public health personnel. The Administration is also announcing a $20 million investment in the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) to assist in areas with rising cases.
- Supplying Treatment Pills to Prevent Hospitalization and Death – The Administration notes that new COVID-19 treatments may be on the horizon to prevent hospitalization and death, and the Administration is taking steps to secure 13 million doses of antiviral courses for distribution to Americans.
- Continued Commitment to Global Vaccination Efforts – President Biden highlighted the U.S. donation of 1.2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to global countries and announced the acceleration of delivery of 200 million more doses in the next 100 doses to global countries.
- Preparing for All Scenarios – The Biden-Harris Administration continues to prepare for all scenarios, including if updated vaccinations or boosters are needed to respond to the Omicron variant. President Biden reiterated the Administration’s ongoing close collaboration with medical and scientific experts on COVID-19 trends and variants.
Additional information from the White House is available here.