Biden launches new masks push 2 years into COVID

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White House reporters peppered President Biden with questions on COVID-19 on Thursday after he introduced a brand new push for folks to put on face masks practically two years into the pandemic — however Biden selected to not reply any of them.

In scripted remarks from the White House-adjacent Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the president — who spoke together with his again to the press pool — introduced a plan to distribute free high-quality masks, the carrying of which he mentioned could be a “patriotic duty” for Americans in response to record-high numbers of COVID instances attributable to the Omicron variant.

“Mr. President, do you have a message for vaccinated Americans who are wondering why they should continue to restrict their activities given your health officials say most Americans will get COVID at some point?” a reporter requested whereas being hustled out of the room.

“Folks, we’ll talk about that later,” Biden replied. “Come on, let’s go.”

President Biden adjusts his mask during an update on the COVID-19 surge on Jan. 13.President Biden adjusts his masks throughout an replace on the COVID-19 surge on Jan. 13.EPA

“Why should Americans trust your administration to beat COVID when the virus is still here, sir?” a second reporter requested, alluding to Biden’s 2020 marketing campaign pledge to “shut down the virus.”

A 3rd reporter shouted, “Mr. President, do you believe Omicron is the beginning of the end of this pandemic?”

“How much longer do you think the schools will have to wear masks, sir?” the second reporter added.

A fourth reporter famous that her colleagues have been getting nowhere and instructed Biden, “Maybe a press conference soon, Mr. President? We’d look forward to that.”

Joe BidenBiden outlined protocols throughout Thursday’s replace.AFP by way of Getty Images

Biden smiled and mentioned, “Me too,” although he has given only one solo press convention in his first yr in workplace.

More than 1.35 million US residents examined constructive for COVID-19 on Monday, in keeping with CDC information — a greater than fourfold improve over final winter’s peak of 294,000 instances reached on Jan. 8, 2021. The true case load is believed to be a lot larger as a result of many individuals are asymptomatic or don’t report the outcomes of at-home checks.

While research point out the brand new Omicron variant causes much less extreme signs than prior strains of COVID-19, it has brought about hospitalization spikes throughout the nation. More than 141,000 US hospital sufferers had COVID-19 as of Monday — beating to the prior file of 133,000 final January.

In his ready remarks, Biden promised that “next week we will announce … how we are making high-quality masks available to the American people for free. I know we all wish that we could finally be done with wearing masks. I get it.”

“Please, please wear the mask,” Biden added. “As I’ve said in the last two years, please wear a mask. I think it’s part of your patriotic duty. It’s not that comfortable. It’s a pain in the neck.”

The CDC mentioned in May that vaccinated folks not needed to put on masks indoors, however later backtracked because of the extra contagious Delta and Omicron variants.

The Omicron variant specifically has brought about a large wave of infections in vaccinated folks, although signs typically are much less extreme. According to CDC data, 79.3 % of all US residents ages 5 and outdated have had at the least one vaccine shot. However, a Danish study published last month signifies that Omicron is between 2.7 and three.7 occasions extra infectious than Delta amongst vaccinated and boosted sufferers.

Biden additionally mentioned his administration would launch a web site subsequent week for folks to request free at-home speedy check kits — and mentioned he was doubling the variety of checks to be despatched out from 500 million to 1 billion kits.

“We’re on track to roll out a website next week, where you can order free tests shipped to your home,” he mentioned. “And in addition to the 500 million — half a billion — tests that are in the process of being acquired to ship to your home for free, today I’m directing my team to procure an additional half a billion — an additional 500 million more tests to distribute for free.”

The White House reportedly rejected an skilled plan in October that known as for the manufacturing of 732 million checks per 30 days for a “Testing Surge To Prevent [a] Holiday COVID surge” and for “Every American Household to Receive Free Rapid Tests for the Holidays/New Year.”

Biden denied to The Post that his employees rejected the skilled plan. He belatedly embraced the mass-distribution drive late final month as instances elevated — however it’s unclear if these checks will attain properties in time to counter the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

Biden removed to his face mask to deliver his remarks on Thursday.Biden eliminated to his face masks to ship his remarks on Thursday.REUTERS

Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response on the Department of Health and Human Services, mentioned Tuesday at a Senate listening to that the Biden administration had contracted for simply 50 million check kits to date out of the initially introduced 500 million.

Retailers reminiscent of CVS Pharmacy stay bought out of check kits at some areas and big traces proceed to be seen at official check websites, forcing FEMA to open federally run testing websites in hard-hit areas.

A beforehand introduced Biden rule additionally takes impact this week requiring medical insurance firms to reimburse policyholders for speedy checks that they purchase themselves.

Biden confronted the robust questions Thursday regardless of his employees persevering with a murky apply of pre-screening journalists allowed inside earshot of the president. The Post was among the many shops denied permission to attend and the standards for choice to attend such occasions stays a thriller to reporters, who’ve been given a spread of conflicting explanations. It’s extensively believed to be a tactic to form the questions that get requested.

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