Healthcare

White House unveils plan for next phase of COVID-19 fight

The White House on Wednesday unveiled a plan for fighting COVID-19 in its new phase, with the virus moving from a crisis to a lower-level risk that does not dominate daily life.  

The plan comes as the omicron wave has declined and many are eager to turn the page on the pandemic. President Biden in his State of the Union on Tuesday night said COVID-19 “no longer need control our lives” in this “new moment.” 

The 96-page plan will require new funding from Congress, the White House said, though there are not specific dollar amounts for each item. Ahead of a March 11 deadline for funding the government, the White House recently informally outlined the need for $30 billion focused on domestic needs and $5 billion for global vaccinations.  

“To fully execute on this plan requires Congress doing its part to invest in tools that work,” the document states. “This plan lays out the roadmap to help us fight COVID-19 in the future as we move America from crisis to a time when COVID-19 does not disrupt our daily lives and is something we prevent, protect against, and treat.”

The risk of a new variant that upends progress remains a threat, and the plan calls for increased surveillance and data collection aimed at monitoring for new variants.  

The National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan is organized around four main areas: protect against and treat COVID-19, prepare for new variants, prevent shutdowns and vaccinate the world.  

It calls for scaling up vaccine production to be able to produce an additional 1 billion vaccine doses per year.  

A new “test to treat” program, announced by Biden on Tuesday night, will allow people to get treatments on the spot at a pharmacy if they test positive, with the first sites launching this month.  

After shortages of tests plagued the country around Christmas amid the omicron wave, the plan calls for continued investments in improving testing supply.  

A new website will give people information about the virus risk level in their area, as well as nearby resources like where to get a free mask or vaccine.  

“The Administration will work with Congress to reinstate tax credits to help small- and mid-size businesses provide paid sick and family leave to deal with COVID-related absences,” the plan says, as part of an effort to bring workers back in-person, including the federal workforce.  

The global vaccination effort, where advocates have for months been pushing for greater urgency and action, will focus in part on helping get shots in arms abroad after the doses themselves are delivered. But like other elements of the plan, the plan notes this effort would require more funding from Congress.  

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