The White House released a plan Wednesday to manage COVID-19 so that Americans can “move forward safely” without shutting down schools and businesses.
The 96-page plan involves additional funding from Congress for this new stage of the pandemic.
The plan was previewed by President Joe Biden on Tuesday night during his State of the Union address. He announced that starting next week, more free rapid tests will be available online. Later this month, pharmacy clinics will be able to hand out antiviral pills to be taken immediately by people who receive a positive test.
“We’re launching the Test to Treat initiative so people can get tested at a pharmacy. And if they’re positive, receive antiviral pills on the spot at no cost,” Biden said during his address.
The plan also includes mass production of about 1 billion vaccine doses every year in case a new variant arises. The new formula would be distributed within 100 days of detection of a new variant. Global distributions of the vaccine are also included in the plan so that future mutations can be addressed on a global scale.
The plan will require more funds on top of the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package that was administered last year. That money has been spent or obligated through contracts. Officials have not stated how much will be needed for the new plan.
“Without these investments, many of the activities described … cannot be initiated or sustained,” the White House said Wednesday.
“America must maintain the tools — vaccines, boosters, treatments, tests and masks — to protect against COVID-19 and dramatically decrease the risk of the most severe outcomes,” the updated National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan stated.
During his address to Congress, Biden also called for less political polarization than there has been in the country for the past two years.
“We can’t change how divided we’ve been. … But we can change how we move forward — on COVID-19 and other issues we must face together.”
In the past month, the U.S. has reported nearly 4.64 million cases and nearly 65,500 deaths from COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Nearly 66% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins.