The new plan for COVID-19 is aimed at getting things back to normal: NPR
The new plan for COVID-19 is aimed at getting things back to normal: NPR

The new plan for COVID-19 is aimed at getting things back to normal: NPR

Home coronavirus COVID-19 tests are on sale at a pharmacy in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City on this February 6 file.

Ted Shaffrey / AP


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Home coronavirus COVID-19 tests are on sale at a pharmacy in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City on this February 6 file.

Ted Shaffrey / AP

The White House on Wednesday unveiled a new roadmap for the COVID-19 pandemic, one that envisions life returning to normal after a two-year crisis, allowing people to be tested and treated for the disease while remaining vigilant for new varieties and outbreaks.

“We are clearly going in the right direction, and with all the interventions we have, I think we are prepared for the possibility that we will get a different variant, in terms of vaccines, boosters, tests, good masks and antivirals. funds, “says Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical officer for the White House, told reporters.

There are four main goals in 96-page plan:

  • Protect against and treat COVID-19
  • Prepare for new varieties
  • Prevent company and school closures
  • Help vaccinate the rest of the world and save lives

The latest feature of the plan is a goal to offer a one-stop “test to treat” system at hundreds of pharmacies, local health centers and other locations starting in March – places where people can confirm if they have COVID, and be treated with antiviral drugs on the spot, free of charge.

The government is considering whether to lift the requirement to wear masks on planes, trains and public transportation, said Jeff Zients, who heads the White House COVID response. The current rule expires on March 18. Zients said officials would consider the state of the pandemic at the time to decide whether to keep the rule in place or drop the measure.

The plan needs support from Congress to pay for it

The plan calls on Congress to increase funding for the ongoing vigilance against COVID to purchase treatments, strengthen test supplies, and prepare new variants.

Administration officials declined to comment directly on how much the plan would cost, saying details of the funding request are still being finalized.

Last spring and early summer, as the number of COVID cases dropped, the emerging market for rapid home testing dried up. Manufacturers slowed production. So when delta and omicron hikes hit, there were not enough tests to meet demand. The White House claims it will require government support to ensure tests are available when Americans need them.

More funding will also help with efforts to discover new variants by improving data collection, sequencing and wastewater monitoring systems, the White House said.

The White House has led table exercises for new fictitious variants with all agencies to determine what is needed to produce, authorize and deliver all new necessities for vaccines and treatments in just 100 days – an ambitious timeline that requires funding from Congress, said Zients.

The plan calls for continued support to help vaccinate the world. So far, the administration has distributed 475 million free vaccine doses to 112 countries, but that is far below its 1.2 billion dose promise. Vaccination of the world is seen as the key to preventing the next variant.

Immunocompromised people will have priority for protection and treatments

The roadmap also places emphasis on ensuring that people with the greatest risk of serious illness from COVID do not feel left behind when normal activities resume.

The White House says it will prioritize protection for people who are immunocompromised, as well as people with disabilities and older adults, giving them priority access to treatments and pushing to ensure they get boosters.

There are also plans to provide support to people who have lost a relative to the disease.

The White House wants Congress to reintroduce tax deductions to cover paid sick and family leave so people working in small and medium-sized businesses can stay home if they get COVID or need to take care of someone who has it , said Zients.

Health and Human Services Minister Xavier Becerra told reporters his department needed funding to set up centers of excellence to study and treat long-term COVID.

President Biden speaks with lawmakers after giving his State of the Union speech Tuesday.

Sarahbeth Maney / AP


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President Biden speaks with lawmakers after giving his State of the Union speech Tuesday.

Sarahbeth Maney / AP

Biden showed a preview of the plan in his State of the Union speech

Biden heralded this “new normal” by walking mask free down the aisle in the chamber of the house to give his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, after which he paused after the speech while chatting and taking pictures.

It was a picture of normality that reflects the reality that many Americans have been living in for months – and a Biden urged everyone else to embrace and told the Americans that it’s time for the offices in the center to be refilled and that the students are in class.

“I know some are talking about ‘living with COVID-19,'” President Biden said in his speech. “We will never just accept living with COVID-19. We will continue to fight the virus just as we do other diseases. And because this is a virus that mutates and spreads, we will stay vigilant.”

Last summer, Biden said the U.S. was “closer than ever to declaring our independence from this deadly virus” only to be burned by increases in cases from the delta and omicron variants. This time, the management plan and the messages around it are more guarded.

There are unforeseen opportunities for new varieties and a plan to build up stocks of tests and treatments. The White House warns that if there is a new increase, some of the remedial measures, such as masks, may also return.

“We will continue to fight the virus as we do other diseases. And because this is a virus that is mutating and spreading, we will stay vigilant,” Biden said in his State of the Union speech.

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