Biden Announces New Protections for Americans Against Omicron Variants and Delta in the Battle against COVID-19 This Winter

Americans are being given new protections against Omicron Variants and Delta. They also need to keep schools open, businesses and help quickly respond to emergencies.

Today President Biden will announce that new measures are being taken to fight COVID-19, as America enters the winter months.

America has made great strides in fighting the virus. It is now more equipped than ever to face the COVID-19 challenges. Without having to shut down schools or close businesses, we now have all the public health tools necessary to stop this epidemic. Today, as we enter winter, the President will announce additional protections for Americans, fight Omicron variants and keep our economy growing.

This plan contains:

Boosters For All Adults

Vaccinations for Kids to Keep Our Schools Open

Americans Expand at-Home Free Testing

International Travel Safety: Stronger Protocols of Public Health

Protecting Our Economy Through Workplaces

For rising cases, Rapid Response Teams are needed

To Prevent Death and Hospitalizations, we provide treatment pills

Continued commitment to global vaccination efforts

How to Prepare for Every Scenario

The President immediately took steps to prevent travel from most affected countries last week after the World Health Organization (WHO), deemed the Omicron variant a Variant Of Concern. This was to allow time for the U.S. and the variant to be studied further. Today we have greater tools to combat the Omicron variant of the disease than any previous versions, such as Delta. Nearly 60% of Americans are fully immunized. All adults are eligible for booster shots, while children 5 years and older can get a vaccine. American children are currently the most vaccinated in the world. Millions have been vaccinated. The Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing other antiviral treatment options for people who get sick.

Today’s actions will ensure we are using these tools as effectively as possible to protect the American people against this variant and to continue to battle the Delta variant during the winter months when viruses tend to thrive. These actions will ensure that our economy continues to grow and protect Americans from COVID-19.

Today President Biden will make the following announcements:

1. Boosters For All Adults:Biden will be announcing new steps that ensure nearly 100,000,000 eligible Americans get their booster shots as quickly as possible. Boosters are becoming more crucial as we confront the Omicron variant. Boosters improve your immune response. This makes it easier for your antibodies to protect you from the Omicron variant. Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance recommending boosters for all adults. All adults who completed a primary vaccination series with an mRNA vaccine at least six months ago and those who received a Johnson & Johnson shot at least two months ago are eligible for a booster. The Biden Administration offers booster shots at no cost and in convenient locations across the country. More than 41 million Americans, half of whom are seniors, have had booster shots. This effort will continue with additional efforts by President Obama.

• Expanding pharmacies availability throughout December, and reaching out all eligible customers for their boosterFederal pharmacy partners are ready and available to meet increasing demand for boosters. To encourage people to order boosters, pharmacy partners have launched broad-based outreach campaigns. They are also sending out millions of text, phone calls and emails to customers who are eligible with details on how they can schedule appointments or come in for their shots. Pharmacy partners will also continue to provide call centre services for members of the general public in multiple languages. In addition, the President will confirm that pharmacy partners will continue to make efforts to increase availability so that adult can receive their booster shots in trusted, nearby pharmacies. More than half of all COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States are now being given at local pharmacies. The federal pharmacy partner will increase access to local pharmacies by increasing their capacity to serve the community’s needs. To ensure equal access to boosters, they will offer vaccinations during convenient hours (evenings, weekends) so that everyone can receive the vaccine when it suits them best.

A new campaign was launched to promote boosters among adults, with an emphasis on senior citizens.A new campaign will be launched by the Department of Health and Human Services to make sure that every adult American receives their booster when they become eligible. It will focus especially on senior citizens who are most at risk, particularly seniors in underserved areas and seniors of communities of color. This campaign will include paid advertising on multiple channels as well engagement with community groups, strong stakeholder outreach and earned media campaigns.

AARP is collaborating on an education campaign that aims to get seniors boosted.AARP is actively involved in educating the public about COVID-19 as well as primary vaccinations, throughout this pandemic. As we work to boost seniors’ health, AARP and the Administration will leverage these successes.

– Town hallsIn order to reach thousands more seniors in the future, the Administration is participating in AARP sponsored tele-townhalls. This will educate and inform older Americans about boosters.

Booster Shots for RidersAARP committed to delivering rides via volunteers or partnerships with other organizations in order to assist seniors getting boosted at their local clinics, pharmacies, events and churches.

Events and Call CenterIn the weeks to come, AARP and Administration will take part in media events in their local communities and other opportunities. In addition, the Administration has provided new training to help CDC’s National COVID-19 Vaccine Assistance hotline answer AARP members’ and all seniors’ questions about boosters or find an appointment at 1-800-232-0233.

– Reaching out to Medicare beneficiaries As part of a comprehensive plan to get older adults the extra protection they need through a booster, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is launching an education and outreach initiative to get Medicare beneficiaries boosted. The CMS Administrator will send a note to all Medicare beneficiaries, encouraging them to boost their health and letting them know how they can access booster shots in their area. This notice is being sent to all Medicare beneficiaries for the first time since 2004. CMS will send out emails and add messages to 1-800-MEDICARE. They also incorporate messaging in advertising campaigns that are highly targeted at high-risk groups with low booster uptake.

– Calling on employers to follow the federal government’s lead and provide paid time off to their employees to get boosted:Federal employees receive time off paid to have booster shots. If they have not already done so, the President will ask employers to provide the same time-off for employees. This includes paid time for relatives to get their booster, first or second shots. There should be no choice between a paycheck and the protection provided by a booster shot, or child vaccine. A third of all workers don’t receive paid time off to get vaccines. Three quarters of parents are worried about their children being vaccinated, or if side effects occur. These concerns have become more urgent in the context of the pandemic response. In fact, earlier this year 64 percent of Hispanic/Latino adult unvaccinated adults, and 55 percent unvaccinated Black adult reported being concerned about having to miss work for vaccinations.

2. We need to protect our children and keep schools open with vaccinesNew actions will be announced by the President to ensure that more children aged 5 years and over are vaccinated, and keep schools open. The President was inaugurated in a country where more than half of all schools had closed since the beginning. Today 99 percent of all schools in the nation are open to students and staff. This will continue to be true with the steps that the President announced today. We now have a new tool to combat the Omicron variant: vaccines that are available for children aged 5-11. This age group is the most vaccinated in the world. The U.S. ranks first. Over 4,000,000 5-to-11-year-olds have been vaccinated and over 15 million teens. Vaccinating children helps to protect them and keep schools open. It also protects their families. The Biden Administration has made it easy for parents to get their kids vaccinated with over 35,000 sites that parents know and trust, including pharmacies, pediatricians’ offices, children’s hospitals and school-based clinics. New actions will be announced by the President to help kids get vaccinated, and schools remain open.

To offer family vaccines and boosters in one convenient, trusted location to all members of the family.The President will unveil a new initiative to establish hundreds of family vaccination centers across the nation. Together, these clinics will offer vaccinations for the whole family – with first shots for parents, teens, and kids, and boosters for those eligible. This model builds on the Administration’s ongoing efforts – in coordination with states, localities, providers and community leaders – to meet people where they are and make vaccinations accessible and convenient in communities across the country. HRSA will launch Family Vaccination Days – with hundreds of community health centers across the country hosting family vaccination clinics throughout December. People of color receive more than two-thirds of the shots administered at community health centres. FEMA will launch Family Mobile Vaccination Clinics, deploying sites, staff, and support to states across the country that need help – beginning with its first deployments to Washington and New Mexico. States and localities will pioneer this model nationwide – with full federal funding and support, and receive a new playbook to provide all partners with the information they need to stand up these sites and increase equitable access to vaccination. And, at thousands of pharmacies nationwide, federal pharmacy partners – including CVS and Rite Aid – will make available family-based scheduling over the coming months so that parents have a one-stop-shop to get their family their vaccination appointments all at once.

– Medicaid must pay for health care providers who talk with families to discuss getting vaccines for their children.To improve COVID-19 vaccinations as well as to ensure equity, we need information from trustworthy sources and to meet the most difficult-hit communities. To help parents get their questions answered and make informed decisions about COVID-19 vaccination for their children, all Medicaid programs will pay health care providers to talk to parents about the importance of kids’ vaccination. Medicaid covers COVID-19 counseling services for children and adolescents up to 21 years old, with 100% federal funding. Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program provide health insurance coverage to over 40 percent of all children in the United States and are a significant source of coverage for Black and brown children. Today’s action will help expand access to individualized medical advice in all of our communities and give families the support they need to engage with trusted community providers.

School COVID-19 Prevention Policies: Review to Avoid Closing Whole Schools or Classrooms – If there’s a Positive Case, Thanks to efforts from the Biden Administration, 99 percent of schools are now open for full-time in-person learning – up from 46 percent at the beginning of the Administration. This progress has been crucial to making sure all students can safely be back where they belong – learning alongside their peers – and to help them accelerate through any learning loss they may have experienced in the last year and a half. By implementing layers of prevention strategies and the support and guidance provided by Administration, schools can remain open and safe. Schools should not be forced to close as a result COVID-19. Schools can be kept open by following these steps:

CDC to release information on school testing and quarantine policies:Contacts who have not been fully vaccinated today should be referred to COVID-19 testing. They can also quarantine their homes for up 14 days. While it is crucial to take proper measures to contain spread of the virus following COVID-19 exposure, this period of quarantine can significantly interrupt student’s learning, and make it challenging for parents to work. States and districts around the country have been pioneering alternative approaches to quarantine, including “test to stay” policies – where exposed students remain in school, wear masks, and test repeatedly in the days following exposure to identify and contain infection. The CDC has studied different methods of testing and quarantine. They also looked at science data to see how these approaches might keep schools safe. These findings will be released by the CDC in the coming weeks.

– The Administration will issue a new “Safe School Checklist” to give schools a clear game plan for how to get as many of their staff and students vaccinated as possible: The best way to avoid outbreaks in schools is to stop transmission before it happens – and the best tool we have to stop transmission and keep schools open is vaccinating everyone who is eligible. All students aged 5 to 19 are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine. Today, the Administration will issue a new “Safe Schools Checklist” to all K-12 schools, detailing a set of actions that every school can take to get their staff and students vaccinated – including hosting school-located vaccination clinics, hosting community-based and family vaccination clinics and events, implementing vaccination requirements for school staff, and getting eligible vaccinated school staff booster shots. This Checklist will link to resources that schools could use to create these programs and educate families about vaccination.

– To provide all resources to FDA in order to facilitate timely review of vaccine applications from children under 5 years of age: As he announced for the vaccine for children aged 5-11 years, the President will also announce his support for an independent scientific review for vaccines for infants under 5 years old. The FDA will receive all necessary resources once the data has been submitted.

3. American Expanded Free at-Home Testing The President today will announce additional steps that ensure Americans have free access to at-home testing. First, the more than 150 million Americans with private insurance – who now are able to get tests covered in physician offices, pharmacies, and clinics with no cost sharing – will also be able to get at-home tests reimbursed by their insurance. At-home testing will also be available through important community locations such as rural clinics and health centers for people who are not eligible for private insurance. Since January, the Biden Administration took significant measures to improve testing across the nation. The supply of quick at-home testing is expected to triple from what it was in the summer. Today’s actions will help Americans access the tests they need to help them stop the spread of COVID-19 to others.

Provides coverage for health plans that cover no-cost, rapid (OTC), COVID-19 testingThe Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury are releasing guidance on January 15th. This will clarify that OTC COVID-19 diagnostic test purchasers will be eligible for reimbursement through their group insurance or employer and insurance will cover the costs during a public health emergency. Current guidance will continue to apply for workplace screening. Today’s announcement follows the President’s September action directing more than $2 billion to accelerate the production of rapid tests and an additional $1 billion investment in procuring at-home tests. FDA also authorized five more over-the-counter testing during the same period. Eight tests currently exist; however, none of them were available when President Obama took office.

– Expanding the distribution of community-based free home tests by partnering with health centers or rural clinics to offer more services.The President has increased the pledge from September to give 25 million at-home free tests to communities sites, to 50 million. He will also add rural clinics and clinics to this program. Partnering with reliable community providers will help get these vital testing supplies to our most-affected communities.

4. International Travel Safety: Stronger public Health ProtocolsThe Administration strengthened international travel protocols last month. It required that all foreign travellers be fully immunized. Biden Administration immediately took steps to limit travel to the regions where the Omicron virus was rapidly spreading, right after it was identified by WHO. The President will announce additional steps to strengthen the safety of international travel as we face this new threat – just as we have faced those that have come before it.

– Strengthening international pre-departure test protocols The United States will increase pre-departure testing requirements for all international traveler. They require that they test their passports within one calendar day after departure, and this applies to everyone, no matter what nationality, age, or status. Scientists continue to examine the Omicron variant and this stricter timeline for testing provides additional protection.

– Extending requirements for wearing a mask when traveling by rail, plane, or public transit. The Administration will continue to require masking during international or other public travel – as well as in transportation hubs such as airports or indoor bus terminals – through March 18 as we continue to battle COVID-19 this winter. These requirements will be maintained by the Transportation Security Administration through March 18th. Fines will continue to be doubled from their initial levels for noncompliance with the masking requirements – with a minimum fine of $500 and fines of up to $3,000 for repeat offenders.

5. To keep businesses open, we need to protect work places Today, the President will announce additional progress we’re making in protecting workers and keeping our economy growing and businesses open. The economy has created 5.6 million new jobs since President Biden was elected. New unemployment claims have dropped by 70%, while applications to start new businesses have increased 30% above pre-pandemic levels. We must slow down the spread of COVID-19 at work and in the workplaces. This will help to protect workers and keep them safe. This is why vaccination requirements are essential. As we enter winter, the President calls on employers to keep workers protected.

– Businesses should be encouraged to implement vaccinations or other testing programs.He will urge businesses to accelerate their efforts to require that all employees are vaccinated and tested every week. This is particularly important considering the Omicron variant. COVID-19 is not a reason for businesses to shut down in winter. A clear plan has been provided by the Department of Labor to assist businesses in keeping workers safe while still keeping their doors open. 60% of companies report that they have started to implement a program to make sure their employees are vaccinated and tested every week. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, along with more than 100 top public health specialists, has encouraged them to take immediate action to put in place these safeguards. He will encourage businesses to act now in order to safeguard workers and customers as well as the economy.

6. For rising cases, Rapid Response Teams are neededThe President today will announce additional actions that will help the states combat any COVID-19 epidemics, even the Omicron variant. As we struggled to control the Delta surge this summer, and fall, thousands of federal employees were deployed to aid 27 states as well as two territories. The COVID-19 surge response teams mobilized to meet critical ground needs, such as personnel, therapy, and technical expertise. We have sent over 2.3million monoclonal antibodies treatments and deployed more than 2,000 people, which includes 1,300 clinicians. The President today will emphasize that federal government will be ready to aid in times of need, such as the possibility of an emerging variant or rising numbers over the winter months.

The availability of 60+ winter COVID-equipped emergency response teams to all statesThe President will create new emergency response teams to support state efforts in the face of rising caseloads. The following teams are included: 

     – 20+ Department of Defense Medical Response Team deployments to support clinical staffing at strained hospitals.

     – 10 National Disaster Medical System team deployments to provide clinical support at strained hospitals.

     – 20+ monoclonal antibody strike team deployments to support the administration of these lifesaving treatments.

     – 15+ CDC expert deployments to conduct outbreak investigations and provide epidemiological or technical support whenever needed.

– Strengthening the national emergency medical response corp to assist communities in crisisThe President today announced that $20 million will be provided by the American Rescue Plan. This funding will help strengthen local health response and preparedness. These funds will be used to increase the resources available for nearly 300,000 MRC doctors and public health specialists who have contributed more than 2,000,000 hours in local COVID-19 relief. HHS will be leading a nationwide effort to recruit volunteers from areas where there are rising COVID incidences.

7. To Prevent Death and Hospitalizations, we provide treatment pillsWe are entering winter and new COVID-19 therapies may be in the works that can help to prevent death or hospitalization. As these treatments continue to be developed and reviewed, today, the President will announce that we are ensuring that if and when any new COVID-19 treatment pills have been found to meet FDA’s scientific standards, they are equitably accessible to all Americans, regardless of their income or their zip code.

Ensure sufficient supply of pills in high-risk areas.To ensure that we are able to provide adequate treatment for Americans in need, the Administration has taken steps to procure 13 million antiviral course doses. This number represents six times more COVID-19 hospitalizations than the total number reported for this year. The Administration is working to ensure that our most vulnerable communities are able access potentially life-saving treatment as soon as possible.

8. Continued commitment to Global Vaccination EffortsToday the President will be reaffirming his commitment to helping vaccinate the world and calling on all countries to follow suit to stop the spread of this deadly pandemic.

– Giving 1.2 million doses of medication to the entire worldThe United States has pledged to give 1.2 billion shots to the globe. Each shot that the Biden Administration administers in the U.S. will result in us donating three doses of vaccines to the people all over the globe. Also, the United States is the first nation to abandon its position in the line for vaccinations. This allowed the African Union to receive up to 110 millions doses of Moderna immediately at a lower rate than the United States negotiated. Our partners are helping us to grow our supply of essential ancillary supplies like syringes.

– Increasing the supply of vaccines to developing countries by promising to provide 200 million additional doses within the next 100 days. To build on our donations of over 275 million doses that have been shared with 110 countries, including 94 million doses to Africa, we are pledging to deliver 200 million more doses in the next 100 days – accelerating the delivery of vaccines to countries in need. The doses will be delivered free of charge and without any strings attached. The U.S. is also the first country to negotiate a deal with J&J and the COVAX facility to send vaccines directly to humanitarian settings and conflict zones to vaccinate displaced people.

– Making steps to boost manufacturing locally and overseas, building a sustainable supply network and expanding global capacity to produce vaccines.Our focus is on increasing vaccine production, developing a sustainable supply network and expanding global capabilities to produce additional vaccines. To help companies with mRNA vaccine manufacturing experience increase their production capacity to 1 billion per year, we will be investing in them. Production is expected to begin by 2022.

– Turning vaccines into vaccinations:Our country partners are helping us to deliver vaccines in armoury with tailored plans to meet specific needs. With lines of effort ranging from communications campaigns to build vaccine confidence, to funding for vaccinators on the front line – the U.S. government is committed to getting people vaccinated around the world.

9. How to Prepare for Every ScenarioMedical and health experts agree that current U.S. vaccines provide some protection from the Omicron variant. Boosters can increase that protection substantially. To ensure we’re prepared for every scenario, the Administration is making preparations to allow us to react quickly to any new boosters or vaccinations that are required to combat the Omicron variant.

• Accelerating development and deployment, if necessary for Omicron variant vaccines and boostersTo ensure we have the latest vaccines and boosters available for the Omicron variant, the President will use every tool and resource at our disposal. The Administration is working closely with executives at Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson to develop contingency plans for other vaccinations or boosters if needed. Additionally, the President will make every effort to assist the FDA/CDC with rapid reviews of vaccines and to ensure that safety standards are upheld. This includes any COVID-19 treatment.