In President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, he touted the progress that the country has made against the pandemic in the nearly 14 months since he took office.
Nearly 16 million COVID vaccine doses had been administered when the president took office in Jan. 2021; as of Tuesday, over 215 million were fully inoculated, according to data from the CDC.
“Thanks to the progress we have made this past year, COVID-19 need no longer control our lives,” Biden said Tuesday. “I know some are talking about ‘living with COVID-19.’ Tonight, I say that we will never just accept living with COVID-19.”
Biden on Tuesday urged the country to “use this moment to reset” — and on Wednesday, the president’s top health advisers announced update to the country’s strategy to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Known as the National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, the new plan aims to “help America move forward safely” and lay out a roadmap to combat the virus in a way that “does not disrupt our daily lives and is something we prevent, protect against and treat.”
"We look to a future when Americans no longer fear lockdowns, shutdowns, and our kids not going to school," the White House announced in a release. 'It’s a future when the country relies on the powerful layers of protection we have built and invests in the next generation of tools to stay ahead of this virus."
Building on Biden's statement Tuesday, the White House said that "We are not going to just 'live with COVID,'" but, rather, "because of our work, we are no longer going to let COVID-19 dictate how we live."
The plan centers around four key goals, the White House announced:
- Treating and protecting against COVID-19;
- Preparing for new variants of the virus;
- Preventing educational and economic shutdowns, and;
- Continuing to lead the global vaccination effort
The plan also calls on Congress for additional funding for a number of the plan's programs, including one the president announced during the State of the Union address, the "Test to Treat Initiative," where people can get tested at a pharmacy and receive antiviral treatment pills on the spot for no cost.
The Biden administration said Wednesday that it will establish "One-Stop Test to Treat" sites at pharmacy-based clinics, community health centers, Long-Term Care Facilities and the Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities nationwide, which it hopes to have operational this month.
White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients on Wednesday extolled the virtues of the Pfizer antiviral pill developed to treat COVID-19, calling it a "game-changer" in the fight against the disease.
"The president's plan, with support from Congress, ensures other important tools, like tests and high-quality masks are widely available, accessible and free," Zeints said, before touting Biden's announcement from Tuesday night that people who have already received free COVID-19 tests from COVIDtests.gov can order more starting next week.
The strategy also includes a plan to expand COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing to 1 billion doses a year, enough to cover 3x the U.S. population, accelerating research and development of a universal COVID-19 vaccine, launching an effort to vaccinate the youngest Americans, improving data collection and sequencing to track new variants and fast-tracking variant-specific versions of vaccines and treatments and launching a "one-stop shop" website where "Americans can find the level of COVID-19 risk in their community and specific guidance based on that risk."
The plan also calls for the administration to work with Congress on giving "schools and businesses guidance, tests and supplies to stay open, including tools to improve ventilation and air filtration" in an effort to prevent educational and economic shutdowns, working with Congress to reinstate tax credits for small- and mid-size businesses to provide paid sick and family leave for those dealing with COVID-related absences and working with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to update workplace guidance to ensure safer workplaces.