The Biden administration is once again on the defensive as the pandemic cuts its wildly unpredictable course, upending American lives with the holidays around the corner
The Biden administration is once again on the defensive as the pandemic cuts its wildly unpredictable course, upending American lives with the holidays around the corner and the tools that could make for safer gathering — widespread, easily available testing — in short supply nearly two years into the crisis.
The Omicron variant, which may more easily evade vaccines, accounted for 73% of coronavirus cases in the US last week, according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates posted Monday.
It hit close to home on Monday evening, when the White House revealed that a mid-level staff member who is “a close contact” of the President tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday morning after spending about 30 minutes “in proximity to the President on Air Force One” on Friday. Biden received a negative test on Monday and was continuing with his daily schedule, with plans to take another test on Wednesday. In a statement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted that the aide was fully vaccinated and boosted and had tested negative before the flight.
will address the nation on Tuesday about his plans for fighting the virus at a time when testing lines lengthen around the country and many anxious Americans weigh whether to cancel Christmas travel plans. To address one of the most pressing concerns about the availability of tests, the President plans to announce that the government is purchasing a half-billion at-home rapid Covid-19 tests that will be distributed at no cost to Americans who request them through a website. The tests will not be available until next month.
Biden hopes to balance a tone of caution about the threat of the fast-moving new variant — reinforcing the need for more Americans to get vaccinated and boosted — with notes of reassurance that the nation is much better equipped to handle a potential winter surge than it was just a year ago.
But the challenge for the Biden administration in the weeks ahead was defined in stark terms on Monday night by Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, who predicted a “national viral blizzard” in the coming weeks that will place significant strain on the nation’s health care system.
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