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Biden: More Masks, COVID Tests, and Troops to Battle Omicron

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President Joe Biden announced that on Thursday, the U.S. government will make free, upgraded masks for purchase online starting next week.

In the meantime, he’s requesting 500 million more rapid COVID-19 tests in order to meet future demands and will deploy more military teams to help overwhelmed hospitals in hardest-hit states.

These actions are part of a “whole-of-government” response to the surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations associated with the Omicron variant.

Upgraded Masks

Biden’s plan will make it easier for Americans to get upgraded masks.

“I’ve taken every action I can as president to require people to wear masks when entering federal buildings as well as on airplanes and trains,” the president said. “I do know that masks are not always easy to find or affordable for all Americans.”

In the coming week next week, the White House will announce that people can order high-quality masks online including N95s, for without cost, on the new website.

Biden estimated that one-third of Americans don’t wear masks, a number Biden hopes to change.

The president also acknowledged the pandemic fatigue many people have.

He said, “We all wish we could get rid of wearing masks. I understand it.” “But they are a really crucial tool to stop the spread, particularly the highly transmittable Omicron variant.”

One Billion Tests

Biden also announced that 500 million more rapid COVID-19 at-home tests will be ordered to meet the demand during his speech of 10 minutes. The order is on top of the 500 million tests that the government has already demanded.

The president did the math and noted that the current and future supply will result in a billion test “being purchased to ship your homes free.”

Biden also stated that at-home rapid tests were not available when Biden became president. In contrast, “we’ll have over 375 million at-home rapid tests in the month of January alone. He said it was a big leap.

His administration will continue to work with online retailers to make more tests available. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has added more test centers in-person across the country for those who wish to take the test as soon as they can.

More Military Backup

Biden stated, “I’m announcing the next deployment of six more federal medical teams.” These reinforcements comprise more than 120 medical personnel from the military being sent to hard-hit states, including Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and Rhode Island.

These military personnel will be joining forces with other units already active.

Biden noted that more than 800 military and other emergency personnel from the federal government were deployed to 24 states and tribes since Thanksgiving. These numbers include more than 350 medical personnel, nurses and military doctors to help overwhelmed hospital staff. More than 14,000 National Guard members have been deployed to assist health care workers across 49 states.

Vaccination Remains Top Priority

During the Omicron surge, it’s important to get more Americans vaccine-vaccinated.

“Right now both unvaccinated and vaccinated people are testing positive. Biden said that the next step after this could be very different. “Vaccinated people who test positive for a particular disease are likely to not have any symptoms or mild symptoms.

In contrast, if an unvaccinated person tests positive they are 17 times more likely to be hospitalized, he added.

“As long as we have tens of million of people who don’t be vaccinated, we’re likely to be flooded with hospitals and unnecessary deaths. Biden declared that hospitals are overcrowded and leaving very little space for anyone else suffering from an attack on the heart, car accident or any other injury.

One bright spot so far in the Omicron increase is that despite the increase in hospitalization and case numbers, he said “deaths are down significantly from last winter.”

Unifying against an Enemy Common to All

Biden said that America will “get through it when everyone does their part, regardless of where you live or what political party you are.”

In addition, acknowledging the political divide that influences COVID-19 response and numbers he said: “We’ve got a fight this together. We must collaborate. Not in competition with each other.”


Address, President Joe Biden, Jan. 13, 2022.

Based on a January 13, 2022 address by President Joe Biden on a ‘whole-of-government’ surge response to COVID-19.

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