President Biden Vows Help for COVID-Swamped Hospitals

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At a White House press briefing, President Biden outlined steps that include sending in reinforcements of doctors and nurses to areas hard hit by COVID-19.

President Joe Biden called on Americans to battle back against the growing threat of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 by getting vaccinated. At a White House briefing, Biden drew a stark line between the vaccinated and unvaccinated. The fully vaccinated, especially those who’ve had a booster shot, should be able to enjoy the holidays without fear if they are celebrating with others who’ve been vaccinated.

On the other hand, “if you’re not fully vaccinated, you have good reason to be concerned.”

Biden also said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will set up sites around the country where individuals can get vaccinated tested for free. “If you want an immediate test, there will be a place where you can go get it,” Biden said, adding that starting next month health insurance companies will begin covering at-home testing.

Biden also said that he was deploying COVID-19 vaccinators to help hospitals.

Biden said that one of the questions that he frequently gets asked is: “Are we going back to March 2020? Absolutely not.”

He noted that we are much better prepared to take on COVID-19 than we were in the early days of the pandemic. “Over 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated,” Biden said. “And for those Americans, a case of COVID-19 will likely mean no severe illness.”

Biden also talked about how his administration plans to deal with the growing problem of hospitals being swamped by COVID-19 patients. He said that the federal government will send about 1000 doctors and nurses around the country where they are most needed. In addition, he plans on sending masks, gowns, and personal protective equipment to hospitals that are running low on those supplies.

“We’re prepared for what’s coming,” Biden said.

Throughout the briefing, Biden returned again and again to the need for all Americans to become vaccinated, saying that the longer “we allow COVID to stay around” the more chance the coronavirus has of mutating. Choosing not to be vaccinated puts others in danger, Biden said.

“To all those people who are not vaccinated, you have an obligation to yourself, your family and—I know I’m going to get in trouble for saying this—but your country to get vaccinated. It’s your patriotic duty.”

Biden also urged that the vaccinated get booster shots, saying that the rate of booster inoculation fell off over the summer.

“Booster shots are fee and widely available,” Biden said. “I got my booster shot. Just the other day former President Trump announced that he got his booster shot. One of the few things he and I can agree on.”

Biden also lashed out at those who spread misinformation about vaccines and boosters. “It’s wrong. It’s immoral. I call on the purveyors of these lies and misinformation to stop it. Stop it now.”

Kevin Kavanagh, MD, a member of Infection Control Today®’s Editorial Advisory Board calls Biden’s planned response to Omicron a “good start,” but says that the U.S. needs to be doing so much more than expanding hospital capacity, and testing.

“It is essential that we stress preventing infections,” says Kavanagh. “This includes ample N95 masks available for the public, social distancing, upgrading indoor ventilation and stressing the use of home delivery and curbside pickup.”

Kavanagh also cited an issue he’s focused on before: what he calls confused messaging about boosters. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been inching its way toward saying that an individual will need 3 doses of a vaccine to be considered fully vaccinated, but hasn’t made that leap yet.

“It needs to be clearly stated that with waning of immunity, if you need a booster it is paramount you obtain one to give you protection against severe disease,” says Kavanagh. “Currently, if you become infected by Omicron there is a scarcity of effective monoclonal antibodies. We must develop the ability to rapidly produce and deploy monoclonal antibodies which are optimized for variants…. Remember approximately 3 percent of our population is immunocompromised and very susceptible to SARS-CoV-2.”

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