The White House will roll out a new strategy that sets out the next phase of its response coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday, two administration officials told CNN, outlining a vision involving fewer disruptions to daily life as they prepare for the unpredictable potential of another game-changing variant.
The White House’s coronavirus response team and the administration’s leading health officials will announce the “national Covid-19 contingency plan” during an event on Wednesday, officials said. The event comes on the heels of President Joe Biden‘s State of the Union speech in which the president will declare that the country can “arrive safely” into a less disruptive phase of the pandemic, one of the officials said.
The new strategy, outlined in an approximately 100-page plan, is the result of nearly two months of work by the White House coronavirus response team and consultations with dozens of external experts, public health officials and governors. White House officials met with Biden several times as they drafted the new strategy the president had signed ahead of its upcoming release.
“He was very focused on getting it right and being aware of the American people about where we are, the tools we have and what they could expect – even from an unpredictable virus,” an administration official said.
Political first reported on the expected announcement.
The plan will recognize an understanding that “Covid is unpredictable, but clear that we do not need to let Covid dominate our lives as it once did,” said a senior administration official. “It’s really more about preparedness and less about preparedness.”
The new strategy document draws on an internal government handbook prepared by White House officials, which describes how the government can most effectively respond to the emergence of new variants.
Officials from across the government put this game book to the test last month, holding a multi-hour tabletop exercise at a video conference that involved a fictitious variant that led to an increase in cases and increased strain on the country’s hospitals, the administration’s senior official said. .
The exercise involved nearly two dozen White House officials, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The exercise focused on both the government’s immediate and long-term response to a new variant, focused on assessing the new variant’s transferability, severity and response to existing vaccines, as well as how public authorities would get started to respond – from issuing guidelines on public health to send new masks, tests and treatments across the country.
White House officials carefully documented their response to the Omicron variant and the subsequent rise in cases, eager to recall what went right, and improve on other aspects of the response.
The White House faced fierce criticism over insufficient testing capacity in the country as the Omicron rise coincided with the holiday season, forcing the administration to fight to ensure faster home antigen testing to send to Americans.
The senior official, who described the exercise and the internal game book on condition of anonymity, said they were based on lessons learned by the government during the advent of the Omicron variant and would allow the government to “faster” implement items such as free masks of high quality and test in case of another variant.
The goal of developing a playbook and testing it in a table exercise was to “institutionalize” aspects of the government’s response, such as rapidly rising masks, testing, therapy, and vaccines to areas in need. The new strategy relies on ensuring that the government has stocks of these goods ready to be implemented in the event of a new, game-changing variant.
The government’s new strategy will be released days after the CDC established new measurements to assess the societal risk of coronavirus, which estimates that more than 70% of the US population now live in areas with low or medium Covid-19 community levels and no longer need to wear masks indoors.
The new strategy will not prescribe changes in federal policy that require masks on planes and trains, nor will it call for changes in the requirement for international travelers to present a negative coronavirus test before entering the United States. said the senior official.
Administration officials stressed that the United States is now ready to adapt a new, less disruptive strategy to respond to coronavirus due to higher levels of vaccination, reduced risk of serious illness, and an increased availability of effective therapies for the treatment of Covid-19.
“The great thing going forward is that we have the tools, we have worked hard as an administration and as the American people to protect ourselves, to move forward where Covid does not dictate how we live anymore,” the senior said. official in the administration. . “It’s because of all this hard work that we can move on.”
This story has been updated with further details on Tuesday.