WASHINGTON – President Biden rolls out his administration's newest strategy on Tuesday to battle the pandemic as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly across the country.
The speech comes as he had a COVID scare of his own after he was exposed to a staff member who tested positive. The White House says Biden tested negative Sunday and Monday and will be tested again Wednesday.
COVID cases are once again spreading like wildfire across the country, driven by the new highly transmissible Omicron variant. Omicron now accounts for 73 percent of new cases in the U.S. and in some parts as much as 90 percent.
"It's really achieved in about three weeks what it took Delta three months to accomplish," explained Dr. Wesley Long of Houston Methodist Hospital.
And now the first Omicron death has been reported – a man in Harris County, Texas. A city official says he had an underlying health condition and was unvaccinated.
With effective vaccines and boosters, Omicron symptoms do appear to be less severe and there's some encouraging news from vaccine makers. Moderna says its booster increases antibody levels against Omicron 37-fold. Pfizer reports 25-fold.
But many Americans still have concerns about the vaccines. Even fans of former President Trump booed him when he admitted to getting a booster shot.
In a speech Tuesday, President Biden is expected to encourage all Americans to get vaccinated. He'll also lay out his administration's latest strategy:
- 1,000 military and medical personnel will be deployed to help hospitals.
- FEMA will set up hospital overflow sites to distribute supplies.
- New federal testing and vaccination sites will be created beginning in New York City.
- Free rapid home tests will be sent to any American who requests one.
The problem may be getting those tests in time for Christmas. Shortages of home tests sold at drug stores and pharmacies are being reported across the country.