White House Outlines National COVID Plan: Back to 'More Normal'

Lindsay Kalter

March 02, 2022

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

The White House on Wednesday laid out President Joe Biden's new National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan that outlines measures "to move forward safely to get back to our more normal routines" – a notable shift from national crisis control to long-term management.

The plan – which officials said would require action from Congress – focuses on keeping businesses and schools open, improving access to testing and treatment, and preventing future public health crises.

"By protecting against and treating COVID, preparing for any new variants, preventing economic and school shutdowns, and vaccinating the world and saving lives, the president's COVID-19 Preparedness Plan will enable us to move forward safely to get back to our more normal routines," said White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients at a Wednesday briefing.

Zients elaborated on the "test to treat" initiative the president mentioned during his State of the Union address on Tuesday, which would expand access to antiviral pills and other COVID-19 treatments.

This month, hundreds of one-stop sites will open across the country that will allow people to receive treatment for COVID-19 immediately after testing positive, Zients said. Locations will include local pharmacy clinics, community health centers, long-term care facilities, and veterans' health facilities.

Congressional leaders have already been briefed on the need for near-term funding to secure more vaccines, antivirals treatments, and continued vaccines research, the White House said. The amount needed was not disclosed.

Biden's plan also includes a new checklist for clean air in buildings from the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure schools and resources remain safe and open.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle P. Walenksy, MD, said the agency will bolster Biden's plan by amping up monitoring strategies, including the wastewater surveillance program that tracks cases by collecting and analyzing fecal matter from community wastewater.

She added that expanding the nation's genomic sequencing efforts will help identify emerging variants, and the CDC's new Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics will detect future health threats.

Top infectious disease expert Anthony S. Fauci, MD, said the plan's focus on vaccine research and development would help to ensure that any "updated vaccines can be developed, approved and manufactured in approximately 100 days."

Along with expanding access to viral treatments and tests, Biden's new plan would address Long-COVID and mental health by directing the federal government to accelerate its efforts to detect, prevent, and treat those issues.

Zients called the president's plan "robust and comprehensive," but noted, "the execution of the plan requires additional funding from Congress."

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