President Joe Biden told U.S. governors that his administration will do everything it can to assist their efforts to mitigate the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
“My message to the governors is simple: if you need something say something, and we were going to have your back in any way we can,” Biden told a bipartisan group of governors on Monday.
This was the first time Biden had joined a weekly virtual meeting between state leaders and members of his COVID-19 response team. The National Governor Association’s chair, Governor William Asa Hutchinson (R-Arkansas), praised Biden’s team for its cooperation.
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP virus.
“Thank you for your comments designed to depoliticize our COVID response. I think that was helpful. As we face Omicron the governors and your administration must be working together more closely than ever,” said Hutchinson. “I particularly appreciate your comments about increasing the supply chain on rapid COVID tests.”
“Your taskforce, led by Jeff Zients, has been responsive and has kept us informed every step of the way,” Hutchinson added.
Biden said that the real work of fighting the pandemic was going to be led by state leaders, rather than the federal government, but added that his administration needs to ramp up its COVID-19 testing efforts and supplies across the country.
“It’s clearly not enough,” said Biden, adding, “We’re now able to purchase 500 million at-home rapid tests to be sent to the American people for free.”
“But we have to do more. We have to do better,” Biden said about long lines for testing that were reported in many states right before Christmas.
Last week, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the Omicron variant accounts for more than 90 percent of COVID-19 cases in the South, Midwest, eastern Atlantic states, and northern Pacific regions of the United States. At the same time, data so far suggests Omicron is less virulent than previous variants and has resulted in fewer hospitalizations and far fewer deaths.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president, told CNN on Monday that the shortage of COVID-19 tests is in large part due to the Omicron variant and the new testing kits Biden mentioned will be made available in January.
“It has been compounded by the situation of the high demand,” said, adding, “We should have had tests available, but hopefully now, as we get into the first couple of weeks in January, that’ll get much better.”
Biden told the governors that private insurance companies will soon be required to reimburse their clients for any COVID-19 tests.
He also ran through some of the other measures that his team is putting in place for any potential surge in hospitalizations, including stockpiling personal protective equipment and readying military personnel via FEMA to assist in hard-hit states.
“We’ve already deployed emergency response teams in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Vermont, New Hampshire, and New Mexico and are ready to provide more hospital beds as well,” Biden said. “The bottom line is we want to assure the American people that we’re prepared, we know what it takes. And, as this group of bipartisan governors shown, we’re going to get through it by working together.”
Katabella Roberts contributed to this report.