Biden Denounces COVID-19 Vaccine ‘Lies’, Announces Free Home Tests
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Tuesday urged COVID-19 vaccine skeptics to stop ‘peddling lies’ on TV and online as the nation grapples with a growing number of cases due to the variant highly transmissible omicron.
Biden also announced new federal support for testing and treatment in states, including 500 million rapid home test kits that will be distributed free by the federal government starting in January.
“Look, the unvaccinated are responsible for their own choices,” the president said in an afternoon speech at the White House. “But those choices were fueled by dangerous misinformation on cable TV and social media.
“You know, these companies and personalities make money by peddling lies and allowing disinformation that can kill their own customers and their own supporters,” he said. “This is wrong. This is immoral. I call on the purveyors of these lies and misinformation to stop this. Stop now.”
Biden stressed that Americans need to get vaccinated and get vaccinated as the best protection against contracting COVID-19. “Those who are not vaccinated are again overflowing hospitals,” he said. “Omicron is a serious and potentially fatal business for unvaccinated people. “
The new wave is making many Americans wonder if it is safe to celebrate the holidays with family and friends, he acknowledged. “The answer is yes you can, if you and those celebrating with you are vaccinated, especially if you have received your booster,” he said.
He said more than 60 million Americans, including 62% of eligible seniors, have received reminders, including former President Donald Trump. “Maybe one of the few things that he and I agree on,” Biden said.
The new wave “absolutely” will not look like the initial wave of COVID-19 that hit the United States in March 2020, Biden insisted. More than 200 million Americans are now fully immunized and the nation is better prepared, he said.
The White House has announced several measures the United States will take this winter as omicron emerges as the dominant variant, responsible for more than 73% of new cases of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It has been difficult in many areas to get appointments or kits for COVID-19 tests, and administration officials have said Americans will soon be able to order free home kits from a website to be set up by the federal government.
The kits, which officials say will be delivered by post, will add to the 50 million test kits already purchased by the federal government for free distribution to community and rural health centers, officials said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said details were still being worked out, such as how many kits each individual can order and whether certain groups will be prioritized.
“500 million tests in January is the biggest order we’ve ever placed to date, and we’ll get it done as quickly as possible,” she said.
Earlier this year, Psaki rejected a journalist’s suggestion to send tests to every household for free, questioning the cost. Retail kits typically cost at least $ 25 for a two-test pack and often more.
With Tuesday’s decision, she said, “We are providing an opportunity, another opportunity or ability for people to… go to a website and request a test if their preference is to take their test at home. Not everyone will want to do this.
New federal free testing sites will be set up, the first in hard-hit New York City, in addition to the thousands of sites already operational, Psaki said. She said states are coordinating with the federal government to determine where the new sites should be located.
Biden said he would also ask the Secretary of Defense to mobilize 1,000 additional troops, such as medics and nurses, to work in hospitals through January and February as needed.
Six emergency response teams made up of federal clinical staff and paramedics will deploy to Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire and Vermont, the White House said.
To help hospitals cope with the expected increase in the number of cases, Biden asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to mobilize planning teams to work with each state to assess the needs of hospitals and start increasing bed capacity, “with the federal government paying for it all,” according to a White House backgrounder. Millions of gowns, gloves, hospital gowns, masks and ventilators are also in storage, Biden said.
FEMA is also ready to send ambulances and emergency teams to transfer patients from overcrowded medical facilities, the administration said. “Just this week, 30 paramedics are heading to New Hampshire, 30 to Vermont and 20 to Arizona, and 30 ambulances are heading to New York and 8 to Maine,” according to the backgrounder.
On the vaccination front, the White House said FEMA will establish new pop-up vaccination clinics across the country, including four new mobile units across New Mexico that are scheduled to open on Thursday. Other sites are expected in the coming weeks.
Biden in his remarks sought to allay anxiety over the new round of business, school, university and entertainment closures.
“I know you’re tired… and I know you’re frustrated,” Biden said. “We all want this to end. But we’re still in it. This is a critical moment. But we also have more tools than ever before. We are ready. We will get by. “