Biden also announced that 1,000 military medical personnel will be deployed across the country starting next week to assist overwhelmed facilities and reduce staff shortages caused by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
Many facilities are experiencing difficulties because many of their workers are currently in quarantines at home due to the virus. This is happening at the same moment as an increase in COVID-19-related cases nationwide. These new federal medical personnel will join other federal personnel already deployed to states to address acute shortages.
Biden, speaking at the White House on Thursday, acknowledged that he understood how frustrated everyone is as new virus cases rise. He insisted, however, that the virus remains a "pandemic of unvaccinated."
Unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals can be tested positive for the virus. However, Biden pointed out medical statistics that show that people are less likely to die from serious illnesses and death after receiving a shot.
Biden's remarks come as the administration shifts to lessening disruptions caused by the spike in cases, which is also contributing to flight cancellations and grocery shortages, than to prevent the spread of the virus.
Janet Woodcock, acting head of Food and Drug Administration, stated Tuesday that the highly transmissible strain would infect "most people". She suggested that Congress should focus on ensuring that critical services continue uninterrupted.
She said, "It's difficult to comprehend what's really happening right now which is: Most people will get COVID. All right?" "We need to make sure that hospitals continue to function, so transportation and other services don't get disrupted."
Biden stated that he has directed his team to increase its procurement of rapid COVID-19 test kits to be free for Americans through a new federal website. This is in response to criticisms about long waiting times and shortages. Initial orders were for 500 million test kits. Now, the federal government will buy 1 billion home testing kits.
Biden stated that the first batch of test kits will become available next week when the administration launches a website that allows Americans to request free tests. The remainder of the tests will arrive in the coming months.
Biden also stated that his administration would make N95 masks of high quality, which are the most effective in preventing the transmission of the virus, free of charge for the first-ever time. Biden stated that details would be announced by his administration next week.
According to the White House, federal officials have a more than 750 million N95-masks in their stockpile. Even though they offer better protection, the masks are more uncomfortable than others. Health officials have not changed their recommendations to avoid cloth masks that are less protective.
Dr. Rochelle Walsky, director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that the best mask is the one you wear and that you can use all day.
Biden encouraged Americans not to wear masks indoors in an effort to slow the spread. He also acknowledged that they can be a pain in the neck.
Thursday's remarks saw Biden joined by Lloyd Austin, the Defense Secretary, who has just recovered from COVID-19 and Deanne Criswell, FEMA Administrator. The federal government is covering the work of more than 800 military personnel, who have helped civilian hospitals since Thanksgiving. They also heard about the 14,000 National Guard members who support vaccinations, testing, and care for patients.
According to the White House, they talked with federal personnel on the ground in Arizona and New York to learn about their experiences.
Biden also announced the deployment of six additional military medical teams to New Jersey, New Mexico and New York.
The White House announced that the teams would support Henry Ford Hospital, just outside Detroit, University Hospital, Newark, University Hospital, University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and Coney Island Hospital, Brooklyn. They will also support the Cleveland Clinic, Rhode Island Hospital, Providence, and University Hospital in Newark.
According to Bob Riney (president of Healthcare Operations and chief operational officer of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit), the Department of Defense's deployment will be joined by another team from the Department of Health and Human Services. He stated that the operations would be "highly coordinated" and all phases would be integrated.
They are not incompatible. He said that they were complementary to each other Thursday.
On Sunday, the first medical team arrived and underwent orientation before they began to help patients on Monday. Riney stated that they will be providing in-patient and outpatient care at Henry Ford Wyandotte for 24 beds.
The first phase will be completed Jan. 21, and the second team will arrive for 30 more days. He said, "We are looking for 45 days of total support that has a greater impact."
Riney told reporters that federal officials chose to support Wyandotte's hospital needs after the Wyandotte health system had submitted its data and current situation to Health and Human Services.
Cleveland Clinic spokesperson said that the hospital system receives federal support from about 20 military medical specialists.
Andrea Pacetti, spokesperson for the Clinic, stated that they will likely begin work next week on the Clinic's Cleveland main campus. In a statement, President and CEO Dr. Tom Mihaljevic said that they are grateful for federal support. "We continue to face a challenging COVID-19 increase in Ohio hospitals. We can now care for more patients in our community thanks to the addition of military medical personnel.