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White House Unveils New Extensive COVID Strategy


Earlier this week, the White House released a comprehensive new COVID plan, signaling a new phase in the pandemic in which the virus remains a threat.

As part of the strategy, which President Biden showed off in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, more free rapid tests will be available online starting next week, as well as pharmacy clinics later this month that will provide free antiviral pills to those who test positive.

ABCnews report Pfizer’s COVID treatment pills, which reduce hospitalization risk by about 90%, have been limited in supply, but Biden said that in April, there will be two million available thereafter. In the plan, hundreds of “one-stop shops” will be opened across the country to provide the services, including pharmacies, community health centers, long-term care facilities, and veteran’s health centers.

There is also a new website where people can locate free N95 masks and vaccines, or see if their community is at risk for COVID.

Over 270 million of the 400 million free N95 masks that the administration promised to distribute earlier this winter have been distributed, and over 270 million of the 1 billion free at-home rapid tests have been conducted.

Additionally, the plan will include the construction of new facilities across the country for people who suffer from long COVID, a condition that can result in shortness of breath, brain fogginess, fatigue, or other symptoms.

“We will launch new centers of excellence in communities across the country to provide high-quality care to individuals experiencing long COVID and better understand the symptoms they’re facing,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

Planning for potential future variants is another major component of the plan. According to this plan, 1 billion doses of vaccine will be able to be mass-produced each year, so that new formula will be available within 100 days if a new variant emerges. In addition, the administration promises to continue providing vaccinations worldwide to prevent future mutations.

The White House has developed a “COVID-19 variant playbook” to identify variants more quickly and prepare for them.

As part of the response exercises, they have worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS, and FEMA to run scenarios with different hypothetical variants.

“We’re ready for whatever comes,” Zients said in a briefing on Wednesday.

“This plan ensures that we are ready to deploy personnel and resources to quickly update the vaccines. These expediting plans and processes will help us reach our goal that updated vaccines can be developed, approved, and manufactured in approximately 100 days,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical advisor.

New efforts in surveillance have enabled the CDC to identify new variants even if they are found in only 0.1% of cases, according to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

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“These robust sequencing efforts mean we can reliably identify very low levels of variants, even variants that account for as little as 0.1% of all COVID-19 cases in the United States,” she said at the briefing.

Across the board, the plan heavily emphasizes having enough tools to enable Americans to continue living with COVID while returning to normal daily activities.

“Two years ago we had limited tools to protect ourselves, mass isolation, and social distancing. But all of that’s changed,” Zients stated.

“They’re widely available for the American people and with Congress’s help, the President’s plan will make sure that’s always the case.”

This effort will take additional funds and resources, on top of the COVID relief package Biden pushed through last year that was valued at $1.9 trillion. The latter funds have mostly been spent or committed through contracts. The administration has already briefed Congress on the need for $30 billion for short-term coverage, but officials have not yet said how much would be needed in total.

“This includes resources to secure more medical supplies, including vaccines, treatments, and boosters, sustaining the testing capacity in the country, investing … in research and development of next-generation vaccines including pan-Coronavirus vaccines, and accelerating vaccine uptake globally,” Zients explained.

“We will need additional funding beyond these immediate needs to effectively execute on the medium and longer-term priorities and policies in today’s plan,” Zients added.

ABC News reported last week that the White House was revising its pandemic strategy to mark a new era. As part of this effort, business leaders, governors, and top pandemic experts have met privately to discuss the possible paths the virus may take in the months ahead.

Voters pressured the government to reopen the country fully and reduce disruptions, leading to an updated strategy. Candidates have been warned they would have a better chance of getting elected if they focused on other issues, such as controlling inflation.

Officials from the federal health department say the shift is not only political. Health care workers have been relieved of pressure as case numbers and hospitalization levels have declined.

During the omicron wave, the vaccine also held up well. In hospitals, the vast majority of people have been unvaccinated, whereas vaccinees have mostly experienced mild symptoms without requiring medical attention.

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