’We have the tools, we just need to finish the job’

As Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to spike, President Joseph R. Biden unveiled a new plan to combat the pandemic that now threatens not only the nation’s health, but also his political future.

“We have the tools to combat the virus, if we come together as a country to use those tools,” Biden said in a televised address. “We’re in the tough stretch and it could last for a while,” added but then laid out the grim statistics about growing cause. He also called out elected officials who “are ordering mobile morgues” rather than promoting vaccinations and the use of masks.

“A distinct minority of Americans, supported by a distinct minority of elected officials are keeping us from turning the corner,” he said.

Biden made a specific appeal to primary care physicians to appeal directly to every patient to get vaccinated.

And the American Medical Association wasted no time in responding to that appeal saying in a statement that it “is pleased by the Administration’s significant efforts to help get this pandemic under control. Aggressive measures will be needed to prevent further widespread transmission of Covid-19. Increased testing—more available and affordable—is a major step forward; a new push to vaccinate young people targets an important under-vaccinated group; increasing the supply of monoclonal antibody treatment provides much needed care; supporting schools that provide additional protections for their students and ensuring hospitals, dialysis, home health, and ambulatory surgical centers also require vaccinations—will help us reach vaccination thresholds necessary to defeat Covid-19. We look forward to reviewing and providing input on the Administration’s full plan.”

The center pieces of the 6-part “Path Out of the Pandemic” plan are a series of mandates that replace “incentives” with “penalties”. For example, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) will begin doubling fines for travelers who refuse to wear masks in terminals, planes or trains.

Among the elements:

  • Companies with 100 or more employees must require employees to receive a Covid vaccine or to be tested weekly. This will be required under a new rule issued by the Department of Labor and enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The new rule will also stipulate that employers provide paid time-off to allow employees to be vaccinated. It is estimated that this will affect more than 80 million Americans.
  • Requiring vaccinations for health care workers at all healthcare facilities including home health workers as well as hospitals and nursing homes that participate in Medicare and/or Medicaid. This would affect an estimated 17 million workers.
  • All executive branch employees will be required—by Executive Order—to be vaccinated and will not longer be offered the option of weekly testing. Contractors working for the federal government will also have a vaccine mandate.
  • Large entertainment venues will be “urged” to required proof of vaccination to gain entry.
  • School districts will be provided special funds to support reopening expenses, including back-filling salaries, in states where “governors” threaten salaries due to mask mandates. Teachers and staff at schools at military bases and Bureau of Indian Education Operated Schools—including Head Start programs in those settings—must be vaccinated.
  • To increase Covid-19 testing, the federal government will increase the supply of over-the-counter home tests sold by Walmart, Amazon, and Kroger and beginning next week those 3 retailers will sell the home tests at-cost for 3 months.

Biden said the new plan will also include access to Covid-19 vaccine booster shots, but implementation of the booster shot plan is dependent upon FDA approval and an approved booster schedule from the CDC.

Additionally, the federal government will increase the supply of monoclonal antibody treatments shipped to hospitals, he said.

Peggy Peck, Editor-in-Chief, BreakingMED™

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