“I want to start by acknowledging how tired and worried you are,” President Biden said in a televised address as COVID cases surge with the Omicron variant. “While COVID has been a tough adversary, we’ve shown that we are tougher.”
President Biden spoke from the White House as the country grapples with a sudden and record surge of COVID-19 cases, driven by the Omicron variant. Among other things, President Biden repeated his urge to unvaccinated Americans to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“If you’re not fully vaccinated, you have good reason to be concerned. You’re at higher risk of getting sick and at higher risk of passing it to your friends and family.”
“You have an obligation to your country to get vaccinated,” Biden continued. “It’s free, it’s convenience, it saves lives, and I honest to God believe it’s your patriotic duty.”
Biden went on to thank former President Trump for recently getting his booster shot as well. “It may be one of the only things the former President and I agree on,” Biden said.
The president also called out those spreading misinformation.
“I am calling on the purveyors of these lies to stop it,” Biden said, calling misinformation about vaccines deadly and dangerous.
Still, the president urged calm; reassuring vaccinated Americans that they are still protected against significant illness.
“We should all be concerned about Omicron,” Biden said, “but not panicked.”
“Because Omicron spreads so easily, we will see some vaccinated people test positive – perhaps in large numbers. Vaccinated people may get sick, but they are still protected from severe illness and death.”
Biden on Omicron: “This is not March of 2020”
“No, this is not March of 2020,” Biden said, allaying concerns the country is regressing.
He cited a 61% full vaccination rate, more scientific knowledge of the virus and greater access to necessary medical equipment.
While some are critical of the administration for being caught off guard by the Omicron variant, Biden announced plans to quell the rapid surge. That plan includes increased testing access, greater vaccine access, a mobilization of US troops and disbursing PPE to medical professionals.
Beginning in January, “private insurance will begin covering at-home testing,” Biden said. “At-home tests will also be free for those who may not have insurance.”
The President also announced 20,000 testing locations set up by the federal government as infections surge with Omicron. In addition, he has ordered the Pentagon to deploy 1,000 military doctors and nurses to hospitals across the country.
FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is under orders from Biden to deploy immediately to set up additional field hospitals and treatment facilities.
The Biden administration’s vaccine mandate was recently reinstated by a federal court. Thus, Biden said the mandates are in place “not to control your life, but to save your life”.
A heartfelt appeal to an exhausted nation
As the pandemic rages on for a second Christmas in a row, Biden closed his speech by speaking directly to America’s weariness.
“I know you’re tired – I really mean that,” Biden said, “I know you’re frustrated. We all want this to be over.”
“As we head into the holidays,” the President continued, “I want us to keep the faith. I want to sincerely thank you for your perseverance and sacrifice over these last two years. We’ve always endured because there is no challenge too big for America.”
“We can do this together,” Biden said. “I guarantee you.”