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President Biden on Tuesday announced a new COVID-19 initiative to return Americans to “more normal routines.”
In his State of the Union address, the president explained that “Test to Treat” allows for Americans to get tested for coronavirus at a pharmacy and receive antiviral pills “on the spot at no cost” if they are positive.
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He also highlighted that vaccine-maker Pfizer Inc. is currently “working overtime” to get Americans a million pills in March and more than double that number in April.
A White House official said the plan will roll out at hundreds of pharmacies nationwide, including CVS, Walgreens and Kroger locations.
His administration is also making more free rapid COVID-19 tests available to order at covidtests.gov – even for those who already ordered some from the federal or U.S. Postal Service websites – beginning next week.
The government has sent more than 270 million free tests to nearly 70 million households since mid-January, with nearly half of the 500 million still unclaimed.
“Tonight, I can say we are moving forward safely, back to more normal routines,” Biden said. “It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again.”
The White House is planning to release a new “National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan” on Wednesday that officials said would be a “roadmap” that will enable the country to “move forward safety.”
According to The New York Times, the plan is expected to address developing new vaccines and therapeutics, how to keep businesses and schools open, and a host of other issues.
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In his speech, Biden also noted the U.S. must be prepared for new variants.
Echoing comments made by Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, the president said new vaccines could be deployed within 100 days, if necessary.
“I cannot promise a new variant won’t come. But, I can promise you we’ll do everything within our power to be ready if it does,” he stated, also calling on Congress to provide renewed funding for tests, masks and pills.
Additionally, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients informed governors Tuesday that Biden is approving the extension of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) support.
“FEMA’s priority throughout the response to COVID-19 has been to coordinate and provide the necessary resources and personnel states, tribes and territories need to adequately respond to the pandemic,” FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said. “Today’s extension of the 100% cost-share through July 1, 2022, builds on our efforts to assist impacted communities across state and federal levels.”
While COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have plummeted since January’s omicron variant peak, deaths remain elevated.
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Children under the age of 5 are not yet eligible to be vaccinated and the president said scientists are “working hard to get that done.”
“We’re leaving no one behind or ignoring anyone’s needs as we move forward,” Biden noted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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