WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden highlighted Thursday the federal government’s efforts to help overwhelmed medical facilities combat the dramatic spike in coronavirus cases and personnel shortage due to the highly transmissible omicron variant.
“As long as we have tens of millions of people who will not get vaccinated, we’re going to have full hospitals and needless deaths,” Biden said as he urged Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Wear a well-fitting mask,” Biden said. “Please wear a mask.” The president acknowledged, “It’s a pain in the neck” but says it makes a difference.
“I know we’re all frustrated as we enter this new year,” he said.
Biden announced that the U.S. is deploying 1,000 military medical personnel to several states to help mitigate staffing crunches at strained hospitals.
Biden said the additional military medical teams will be deployed to Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island.
Many facilities are struggling because their workers are in at-home quarantines due to the virus at the same time as a nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases. The new military deployments will be on top of other federal medical personnel who have already been sent to states to help with acute shortages.
Biden also announced that his administration will double its purchase to 1 billion of the rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests to be distributed free to Americans.
For the first time, high-quality N95 masks, which are most effective at preventing transmission of the virus, will be among the masks distributed. He said his administration would announce details next week.
Biden said that the tests will be available through a forthcoming federal website and details will be announced next week.
On Tuesday, Janet Woodcock, the acting head of the Food and Drug Administration, told Congress that the highly transmissible strain will infect “most people” and that the focus should turn to ensuring critical services can continue uninterrupted.
“I think it’s hard to process what’s actually happening right now, which is: Most people are going to get COVID, all right?” she said. “What we need to do is make sure the hospitals can still function — transportation, other essential services are not disrupted while this happens.”
Earlier this month, Biden pushed for more Americans to get vaccinated as omicron became the dominant strain in the United States.
“There is no excuse for anyone being unvaccinated,” Biden said. “This continues to be a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
Biden’s remarks come as a NewsNation poll of 1,000 registered voters, completed this week by Decision Desk HQ, revealed nearly 55 percent of respondents disapprove of the president’s handling of the pandemic, while 45 percent approve.
Scott Tranter, an adviser for Decision Desk HQ, said its poll suggests, “The population does not have a positive outlook on COVID (or) the economy and it appears they blame Joe Biden.”
The NewsNation poll mirrored several recent polls about the pandemic, though it was in some cases different from surveys with larger sample sizes. Biden’s approval rating dropped to 33 percent, his lowest mark yet, in a new Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday. You can read the full NewsNation poll here.
About 33% of all Americans have received their booster shot, according to data to compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 62% of the population is considered fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.