American President Joe Biden said his administration plans to provide 500 million COVID-19 tests to the United States at no cost to users.
Speaking at the White House, Biden described several efforts to support hospitals, to increase testing and to increase the availability of vaccines. The president's message comes as the world is struggling to contain yet another version of the new coronavirus, the Omicron variant.
Biden pushed Americans to get additional COVID-19 vaccine injections known as booster shots. He said he was not planning on shutdowns or severe restrictions like those seen earlier in the pandemic.
"We know a lot more today than we did in March 2020," he said. "We're ready, we'll get through this."
Biden said vaccination efforts will be increased and he urged Americans who are not vaccinated to get the shot. "400,000 Americans died of COVID this calendar year – almost all were unvaccinated," Biden said.
Efforts to support hospitals
The president said the government will establish additional testing sites. There are about 20,000 operating now in the U.S. The government will use the Defense Production Act to order manufacturers to make more tests, Biden said.
Biden administration officials say they are working with Google to help people find testing sites through online searches.
The president also said the government will send 1,000 medically skilled troops to hospitals overloaded with COVID-19 cases. Federal medical workers are immediately going to the hard-hit states of Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire and Vermont. There are also plans to give hospitals more medical and protective equipment from the national supply.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, will send hundreds of medical vehicles and medical teams to hospitals. The aim is that, if one hospital fills up, patients can be moved to open beds in other hospitals.
The Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, says 204 million people in the United States are fully vaccinated. That amounts to 61 percent of the population. Only about 60 million of the fully vaccinated have received booster shots, the CDC reports.
About 50 million Americans have not gotten any vaccine. Biden said they have a responsibility to get vaccinated.
I'm Jill Robbins.