By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Saying it is every American’s patriotic duty to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19, President Joe Biden laid out new plans to up the fight against the virus and its new dominant Omicron variant, including more free in-home testing and help for hospitals.
Answering the question on many minds, whether it is safe to gather for the holidays with families and friends during this surge, Biden answered, “Yes you can if you and those you celebrate with area vaccinated. Particularly if you have gotten your booster shot.”
Biden said he and former President Donald Trump have both received a booster, “maybe one of the few things we agree on.” People with booster shots, he said “are highly protected. Join us.”
Biden also said he will go forward with his controversial rule to require employers of 100 or more to require its employees to be vaccinated or tested weekly.
The president also said he is asking the Pentagon to deploy 1,000 troops to help staff hospitals and increase capacities where needed, all at the federal government’s expense.
Biden is sending immediate help for beleaguered hospitals straining to keep up with the pressures of COVID-19 in New Hampshire and other states that have been filling to over-capacity in recent weeks.
“Just this week, 30 paramedics are heading to New Hampshire, 30 to Vermont, and 20 to Arizona, and 30 ambulances are headed to New York and 8 to Maine,” according to a White House fact sheet.
Gov. Chris Sununu issued a news release after Biden’s press conference saying:
“New Hampshire was the first state in the country to offer at-home tests delivered for free statewide and today’s announcement by the White House to scale up this successful at-home testing effort to the other 49 states is critical to managing this pandemic,” Sununu said.
“While the White House and FEMA have yet to confirm any new personnel will be deployed to New Hampshire beyond those teams already on the ground, we have requested a team dedicated to administering monoclonal antibodies and the state will continue to work with our federal partners to push for as many resources as needed to battle this pandemic,” Sununu added.
Sununu posted those comments on Twitter and also alerted followers that he was going to speak on Fox News. “Looking forward to joining @TeamCavuto on @FoxNews shortly after 4 PM to discuss @POTUS COVID speech.”
Sununu also retweeted The Guy Benson Show tweet about his Tuesday appearance.
At the press conference, Biden assured there will also be more vaccination and booster opportunities opening up where there is demand across the country and work to stock more personal protective equipment.
While 50 million people have become fully vaccinated this year, there are still another 40 million eligible who have not been vaccinated.
“Still too many,” Biden said to those unvaccinated. “You have an obligation to yourselves, your family and quite frankly – and I know I will be criticized for this – to your country. Get vaccinated now it’s free, it’s convenient, I promise you it saves lives, and I honest to God believe it is your patriotic duty.”
Biden announced that starting this week the federal government will set up new emergency COVID-19 testing sites in areas that need additional testing sites.
In New Hampshire Tuesday, just before Biden took to the podium at the White House, a search for in-home test kits found little availability.
If you are lucky enough to find a pharmacy carrying them in New Hampshire today, rapid COVID-19 tests are available, but limited to two per customer and cost about $10 each.
Biden said he is using the Defense Production Act to get 500,000,000 more at-home tests that will be distributed free through a Google search.
“Bottom line is it is a lot better than it was,” said Biden. “We are taking even more steps to get tested and tested for free.”
Finally, he said, his rules to require businesses of 100 or more employees to require their employees to be vaccinated or tested will go into effect, after challenges in the courts, including from New Hampshire.
“These rules will keep workers safe and keep workers safe will keep businesses open,” Biden said. “They are much less likely to get sick and less likely to spread it to others. Customers are more likely to come in and shop because they know it’s a safe environment. I know vaccination requirements are unpopular…my administration has put them in place not to control your life but to save your life and the lives of others.”
He said this year, about 400,000 Americans have died, almost all unvaccinated and preventable. The rule is legal and effective and is going to save thousands of American lives, he said.
Biden also stressed the need to keep K-12 schools open during the pandemic and urged parents to get their children vaccinated.
He said safety would increase if schools required all adults working in them to be fully vaccinated.
Take the CDC’s recommendation, he said, including masking in schools.
This past Friday, he said the CDC issued the “Test to Stay” guidelines so schools can stay open even if a classmate tests positive.
He concluded his prepared remarks, before taking a few questions to say that he knows everyone is tired of this pandemic which has altered life for almost two years.
“We are still in it. We have more tools than we ever had before. We are ready. We will get through this and during the holidays, let us all keep the faith. I want to sincerely thank you for your perseverance your courage, your countless acts of kindness, your love, and sacrifice during these last two years. Throughout our history, we have been tested as a people as a nation, through war and turmoil,” Biden said.
This is a critical moment, he said, but assured that if we stay together we will come out better and stronger.