President Joe Biden announced Thursday his administration is deploying additional medical military personnel and buying more COVID-19 tests to try to deal with the latest surge in cases of the Omicron variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
In an address ahead of a meeting with military members and others involved with the federal COVID-19 response, Biden said he will send six additional military teams of more than 120 military medical personnel to help the medical response in “hard hit” states including Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, New Mexico, and Rhode Island.
In December, the White House announced it would mobilize an additional 1,000 troops to deploy to overburdened hospitals in January and February as needed.
“As we’ve seen the rise in the omicron cases here recently, the number one request continues to be staffing,” Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell told CNN. “So, these teams are going to provide critical support to help relieve some of the drain and the strain on the health care system.”
Criswell says the teams will consist mainly of nurses and physicians that will assist hospitals with medical care provision, but in some cases the military will send administrative support as well.
She says if the omicron surge continues it’s “a good possibility” additional states will receive military support.
Several states are reporting elevated hospitalizations.
New Jersey, for example, had 6,089 COVID-19 patients in hospital on Wednesday. That compares with a state record of 8,270 on April 15, 2020.
About 73 percent of the hospital beds in the state are filled and 53 percent of intensive care unit (ICU) beds are occupied. In Rhode Island, 86 percent of all hospital beds are filled and 90 percent of ICU beds.
There were 133,871 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States on average over the past week, according to Reuters. How many of those were hospitalized due to the disease or were admitted for other reasons is not clear.
Biden also announced Thursday the federal government will procure an additional 500 million COVID tests to be used for the White House’s upcoming website that will allow Americans to have tests shipped directly to their home by the U.S. Postal Service.
“That will mean a billion tests in total to meet future demand,” Biden said.
The president also said the administration next week will announce it will make high quality masks available for free. According to Biden, about a third of Americans report they do not wear a mask.
Reuters Contributed to this report.