Biden highlights federal ‘increase’ of military medical staff to help weather Omicron

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden highlights the federal government’s efforts to “strengthen” military medical personnel to help overwhelmed medical facilities with the weather the increase in cases of coronavirus and staff shortage because of the highly transferable omicron variant.

From next week, 1,000 military medical personnel will begin arriving to help mitigate staffing crunch in hospitals across the country. Many facilities are struggling because their workers are in home quarantine due to the virus at the same time as a nationwide increase in COVID-19 cases. The new deployments will be on top of other federal medical personnel already sent to states to help with acute shortages.

Biden planned to comment Thursday morning on the “wave reaction” on COVID-19, the White House said. The administration’s focus shifts to easing disruption from the nationwide increase in cases that also contribute to lack of groceries and flight cancellations.

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 focus should be on ensuring that critical services can continue uninterrupted.

“I think it’s hard to process what’s actually happening right now, which is: Most people will get COVID, okay?” she said. “What we need to do is ensure that hospitals can still function – transport, other important services are not disrupted while this is happening.”

The White House said Biden would be joined Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who recently recovered his own case of COVID-19, and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell. They will focus on the work of the more than 800 military personnel who have assisted civilian hospitals since Thanksgiving and the more than 14,000 Members of the National Guard whose work to support vaccinations, testing, and patient care is covered by the federal government.

The White House said the trio would talk to federal staff already on the ground in Arizona, Michigan and New York to hear about their experiences.

Biden will also announce that six additional military medical teams will be deployed to Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island.

The White House said teams would support Henry Ford Hospital just outside Detroit, University Hospital in Newark, University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn, Cleveland Clinic and Rhode Island Hospital in Providence.

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