White House reporters peppered President Biden with questions on COVID-19 on Thursday after he introduced a new push for individuals to put on face masks practically two years into the pandemic — however Biden selected to not reply any of them.
In scripted remarks from the White House-adjacent Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the president — who spoke along with his again to the press pool — introduced a plan to distribute free high-quality masks, the sporting of which he mentioned could be a “patriotic duty” for Americans in response to record-high numbers of COVID circumstances brought on by the Omicron variant.
“Mr. President, do you have a message for vaccinated Americans who are wondering why they should continue to restrict their activities given your health officials say most Americans will get COVID at some point?” a reporter requested whereas being hustled out of the room.
“Folks, we’ll talk about that later,” Biden replied. “Come on, let’s go.”
“Why should Americans trust your administration to beat COVID when the virus is still here, sir?” a second reporter requested, alluding to Biden’s 2020 marketing campaign pledge to “shut down the virus.”
A 3rd reporter shouted, “Mr. President, do you believe Omicron is the beginning of the end of this pandemic?”
“How much longer do you think the schools will have to wear masks, sir?” the second reporter added.
A fourth reporter famous that her colleagues had been getting nowhere and informed Biden, “Maybe a press conference soon, Mr. President? We’d look forward to that.”
Biden smiled and mentioned, “Me too,” even though he has given only one solo press convention on the White House in his first yr in workplace.
More than 1.35 million US residents examined constructive for COVID-19 on Monday, in line with CDC knowledge — a greater than fourfold enhance over final winter’s peak of 294,000 circumstances reached on Jan. 8, 2021. The true caseload is believed to be a lot larger as a result of many individuals are asymptomatic or don’t report the outcomes of at-home checks.
While research point out the new Omicron variant causes much less extreme signs than prior strains of COVID-19, it has precipitated hospitalization spikes throughout the nation. More than 141,000 US hospital sufferers had COVID-19 as of Monday — beating the prior document of 133,000 final January.
In his ready remarks, Biden promised that “next week we will announce … how we are making high-quality masks available to the American people for free. I know we all wish that we could finally be done with wearing masks. I get it.”
“Please, please wear the mask,” Biden added. “As I’ve said in the last two years, please wear a mask. I think it’s part of your patriotic duty. It’s not that comfortable. It’s a pain in the neck.”
The CDC mentioned in May that vaccinated individuals not needed to put on masks indoors, however later backtracked as a result of extra contagious Delta and Omicron variants.
The Omicron variant specifically has precipitated an enormous wave of infections in vaccinated individuals, although signs typically are much less extreme. According to CDC data, 79.3 p.c of all US residents age 5 and older have had at the very least one vaccine shot. A Danish study published last month signifies that Omicron is between 2.7 and three.7 instances extra infectious than Delta amongst vaccinated and boosted sufferers.
Biden additionally mentioned his administration would launch an internet site subsequent week for individuals to request free at-home speedy check kits — and mentioned he was doubling the variety of checks to be despatched out from 500 million to 1 billion kits.
“We’re on track to roll out a website next week, where you can order free tests shipped to your home,” he mentioned. “And in addition to the 500 million — half a billion — tests that are in the process of being acquired to ship to your home for free, today I’m directing my team to procure an additional half a billion — an additional 500 million more tests to distribute for free.”
The White House reportedly rejected an knowledgeable plan in October that referred to as for the manufacturing of 732 million checks per 30 days for a “Testing Surge To Prevent [a] Holiday COVID surge” and for “Every American Household to Receive Free Rapid Tests for the Holidays/New Year.”
Biden denied to The Post that his workers rejected the knowledgeable plan. He belatedly embraced the mass-distribution drive late final month as circumstances elevated — but it surely’s unclear if these checks will attain properties in time to counter the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response on the Department of Health and Human Services, mentioned Tuesday at a Senate listening to that the Biden administration had contracted for simply 50 million check kits thus far out of the initially introduced 500 million.
Retailers resembling CVS Pharmacy stay offered out of check kits at some places and large traces proceed to be seen at official check websites, forcing FEMA to open federally run testing websites in hard-hit areas.
A beforehand introduced Biden rule additionally takes impact this week requiring medical insurance firms to reimburse policyholders for speedy checks that they purchase themselves.
Biden confronted the powerful questions Thursday regardless of his workers persevering with a murky apply of pre-screening journalists allowed inside earshot of the president. The Post was among the many retailers denied permission to attend and the factors for choice to attend such occasions stays a thriller to reporters, who’ve been given a spread of conflicting explanations. It’s extensively believed to be a tactic to form the questions that get requested.