President Biden is implementing a six-pronged, comprehensive national strategy that employs the same science-based approach that was used to successfully combat previous variants of COVID-19 earlier this year. This plan will ensure that we are using every available tool to combat COVID-19 and save even more lives in the months ahead, while also keeping schools open and safe, and protecting our economy from lockdowns and damage.
Vaccinating the Unvaccinated
Since January, the Administration has taken actions to make vaccination conveniently available to all. COVID vaccines have been available to every individual age 16 and older since April 19th and to those age 12 and older since May. The Administration took steps to make vaccines available at over 80,000 locations nationwide, worked with pharmacies to offer walk-in appointments, and put out a call to action to businesses and organizations across the nation.
The President announced vaccination requirements for the federal government in July and called on the private sector to do more to encourage vaccination as well. Since that time, employers, schools, nursing homes, restaurants, hospitals, and cities in all 50 states have announced new vaccination requirements. Since July, the share of job postings that require vaccination are up 90%. And we know these requirements work. At the beginning of August, when Tyson Foods announced its requirement—only 45% of its workforce had gotten a shot. Today, it stands at 72%, meaning half of Tyson’s unvaccinated workers have now gotten a shot—well ahead of the company’s November 1st deadline. After United Airlines announced its vaccination requirement, more than half of its unvaccinated employees went out and got vaccinated with weeks left to go before the deadline. In Washington State, the weekly vaccination rate jumped 34% after the Governor announced requirements for state workers.
All told, these efforts—and countless other Administration initiatives and policies—have resulted in over 175 million fully vaccinated Americans. But there are still nearly 80 million Americans eligible to be vaccinated who have not yet gotten their first shot.
The President’s plan will reduce the number of unvaccinated Americans by using regulatory powers and other actions to substantially increase the number of Americans covered by vaccination requirements—these requirements will become dominant in the workplace. In addition, the plan will provide paid time off for vaccination for most workers in the country.
Further Protecting the Vaccinated
There are over 175 million fully vaccinated Americans who are largely protected from a severe illness from COVID-19. While so-called “breakthrough infections” among this group do happen, they remain the exception: In fact, recent data indicates there is only 1 confirmed positive case per 5,000 fully vaccinated Americans per week.
But COVID-19 vaccination protection can be made even stronger. In August, the nation’s top health officials—Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC Director; Dr. Janet Woodcock, Acting FDA Commissioner; Dr. Francis Collins, NIH Director; Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy; Dr. David Kessler, COVID-19 Chief Science Officer; Dr. Rachel Levine, HHS Assistant Secretary for Health; and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Chair of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force—released an initial plan for booster shots aimed at staying ahead of the virus. The plan released by our nation’s doctors allows for states, pharmacies, doctors’ offices, health insurers and others to prepare for the administration of boosters. In the beginning weeks of the initial vaccination program in December 2020, the country lost precious time because we were unprepared to administer shots. By planning now, we will be able to quickly get booster shots into the arms of eligible Americans once approved.
A booster promises to give Americans their highest level of protection yet. Three-shot vaccines are common (Hepatitis B, Tetanus) and offer some of the most durable and robust protection.
Implementation of this plan depends on authorization of boosters by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and recommendations by the CDC’s independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). As soon as authorizations are given, the Administration will be prepared to offer booster shots, starting the week of September 20th.
Keeping Schools Safely Open
A top priority for the Biden Administration since Day One has been to reopen schools safely and keep them open. The Administration has taken significant actions to get our kids back in the classroom, including providing $130 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to help schools reopen, accelerate students’ academic growth, address inequities exacerbated by the pandemic, allow local school districts to implement CDC-recommended COVID-19 prevention strategies, and support student and educators’ social, emotional, and mental health needs. We know how to keep students safe in schools by taking the right steps to prevent transmission—including getting all staff and eligible students vaccinated, implementing universal indoor masking, maintaining physical distancing, improving ventilation, and performing regular screening testing for students and school staff. The President’s plan calls for additional actions to ensure all schools consistently implement these science-based prevention strategies recommended by the CDC so that they can remain open for in-person learning and maintain the health and safety of all students, staff, and families.
As we work to ensure our children are protected, we know that vaccination remains the best line of defense against COVID-19. For those adolescents aged 12 and above who are eligible for vaccination, the most important step parents can take is to get them vaccinated. To date, over half of the nation’s adolescents have been vaccinated. For those too young to be vaccinated, it is especially critical that they are surrounded by vaccinated people and mask in public indoor spaces, including schools. Studies released by the CDC found that the rate of hospitalization for children was nearly four times higher in states with the lowest vaccination rates compared to states with high vaccination rates.
The FDA is undergoing a process now to evaluate a vaccine for children under the age of 12, and under the President’s plan, the Administration will do whatever it takes to support those efforts, while continuing to respect and defer to the scientific decision-making of the agency.
Increasing Testing & Requiring Masking
It will take time for the newly vaccinated to get protection from the virus. As we continue to combat COVID-19, testing is a key tool to identify infected individuals and prevent spread to others. Likewise, masking can also help slow and contain the spread of the virus—and the combination of increased vaccinations and masking will have a major impact on COVID-19 transmission. President Biden’s plan takes new actions to increase the amount of testing—in your own home, at pharmacies, and in your doctor’s office—and ensures that strong mask requirements remain in place.
Protecting Our Economic Recovery
President Biden’s economic plan is working. Since Day One in office, the President has focused on jumpstarting the economy and rebuilding it from the bottom up and the middle out. America is getting back to work, and workers and small businesses are seeing the results. Since President Biden took office, there has been historic job growth—more than 4 million jobs created– the most in any President’s first six months, with 750,000 jobs created on average per month over the last three months. Despite the challenges posed by the Delta variant, the economy created 235,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since before the pandemic. The average number of new unemployment insurance claims has been cut by more than half since President Biden took office, and more than 70 percent of Americans say that now is a good time to find a quality job, up from less than 30 percent this time last year. The U.S. is the only major economy that has now exceeded its pre-pandemic growth projections, and independent forecasters believe America will this year reach the highest levels of growth in decades.
COVID-19 impacts our economy, no doubt. But, the President’s plan will limit the damage and ensure that the Delta variant cannot undo this progress. The policies outlined throughout this plan will ensure that we do not return to lockdowns and shutdowns. Additionally, we will offer new support to small businesses as they continue to weather the surge caused by the Delta variant. Supporting small businesses is critical to our economic growth, since they create two-thirds of net new jobs and employ nearly half of America’s private workforce. These reforms include:
Improving Care for those with
As we work to reduce cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, we will maintain our focus on treating people infected with COVID-19—and helping hard-hit health care systems in the most impacted areas. In early July, the Administration launched Surge Response Teams to help states experiencing case increases. Since then, the Administration has worked with 18 states, deploying nearly 1,000 personnel, including hundreds of EMTs, nurses and doctors on the ground providing emergency medical care; surged hundreds of ventilators, ambulances and other critical assets to support strained health care systems; stood up dozens of new, free testing sites; and assisted with local outbreak investigations.
As we continue to battle the Delta surge, the President’s plan will continue to send response teams to states that request them and take additional actions to accelerate this work.
Increasing Support for COVID-Burdened Hospitals
The President’s plan will provide additional support for hospitals facing capacity issues. The Department of Defense is announcing a commitment to double the number of DOD teams of clinicians deployed to support hospitals battling a surge in COVID-19 cases. These clinicians will be available for mission assignment through FEMA’s response across surge states. Since the Administration launched the COVID-19 Surge Response Teams, nearly 1000 personnel have been deployed to states across the country to respond to the Delta variant, including more than 500 highly skilled health care professionals from across HHS’ network of physicians, nurses, and other providers who are called up to respond to emergencies, FEMA’s network of emergency medical services providers, and DOD’s medical teams. These professionals have surged into COVID-19 ICUs and other acute care hospital settings to support and relieve overburdened local health care workers. In addition, the Department of Veterans Affairs have opened up over 150 hospital beds in Veterans Affairs’ facilities across surge states in order to reduce the burden on local hospitals.
Getting Life-Saving Monoclonal Antibody Treatment to Those Who Need It
The United States government shipped an average of approximately 100,000 doses of monoclonal antibodies per week across July and August. The Administration will increase the average weekly pace of shipments of free monoclonal antibody treatment to states by a further 50% in September, continuing to accelerate the federal government’s efforts to deliver lifesaving COVID-19 treatment. Monoclonal antibody treatments have been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization by up to 70% for unvaccinated people at risk of developing severe disease. As hospital systems experience increased COVID-19 cases, many have identified monoclonal antibody treatment as a key tool to improve health outcomes, prevent hospitalizations and reduce the strain on overburdened hospitals.
Expanding the Pool of Health Care Professionals Providing Treatment by Deploying Federal Monoclonal Antibody Strike Teams
The COVID-19 Surge Response Teams have conducted in-person technical assistance and virtual trainings for physicians and health system officials to increase education and interest in administering these treatments. To ensure that more patients can access these lifesaving COVID-19 therapeutics, the Administration’s COVID-19 surge response effort will launch monoclonal antibody strike teams to deploy clinical personnel through HHS, FEMA, and DOD to help hospitals and health systems stand up the delivery of this key treatment option. HHS will also take action to amend the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act declaration to allow more providers, including pharmacists, to administer this treatment. These actions will ensure that more patients receive lifesaving treatments if they are infected or exposed to COVID-19.
President Biden’s plan to continue to combat COVID-19 this fall is comprehensive, science-based and relies on the power of the federal government working hand-in-hand with states, local communities, the private sector, and all Americans to put this pandemic behind us. The strategy outlined here is domestic-focused. In the weeks ahead, the President will announce additional steps to build on the progress the Administration has made to combat this pandemic globally. President Biden and his Administration will continue to use every tool necessary to protect the American people from COVID-19.