The Biden administration is facing increasing pressure from congressional Democrats to step up its efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The White House announced this week a barrage of initiatives, including the purchase of an additional 500 million rapid COVID-19 tests, and said a plan is coming next week to make high-quality masks available to the public for free.
But some Democrats and health experts are both pushing for more – and questioning why these actions were not taken months ago before the current wave, driven by the omicron variant, took hold.
Five Democratic senators led by senator. Jackie RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenOvernight Energy & Environment – Lummis stops Biden EPA chooses Dems blocks Cruz’s Nord Stream 2 sanction law Eleven interesting races to see in 2022 MORE (Nev.) Issued a letter to the White House Friday, expressing “serious concern” over the state of the pandemic’s response, saying it had all too often been “reactive rather than proactive.”
“This administration either knew or should have known that there was a test shortage across the country over the last many months, and with the full expectation that the virus would likely mutate into a new variant, steps to increase test access should have taken place. before the current wave hit, not several weeks inside the rise, with resources still unavailable until later this month or later, ”the senators wrote.
Meanwhile, Democratic representatives Don Beyer (Va.), Hos TitusAlice (Dina) Costandina TitusRapper French Montana talks about opioid epidemic, immigration on Capitol Hill Nevada lawmakers approve cards that benefit Democrats Democrats’ call to the state to lift the ban on same-sex marriages MORE (Nev.), Joe MorelleJoseph (Joe) MorelleNational progressive group marks six lawmakers ‘only progressive in name’ in new report House clears bill to raise debt limit Pennsylvania Republicans become latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress MORE (NY) and Kaialiʻi Kahele (Hawaii) introduced a bill that required the administration to buy fast enough tests so that every American can take two a week for a year.
“The 500 [million tests] is a good start, but it is only one and a half tests per person, ”Beyer said in an interview.
On masks, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWe are America’s independent entrepreneurs and we are horrified Overnight Health Care – Biden’s Republican Rep. (I-Vt.) And more than 50 Democratic lawmakers this week introduced a bill to send three high-quality N95 masks to every person in the United States
“It’s an absolute scandal that high – quality masks in the richest country in world history are not readily available to frontline workers, health care workers, and all Americans,” Sanders said.
The White House has rolled out new measures in the midst of pressure, while also defending its efforts so far.
A new website will go live on Wednesday, allowing people to order free quick tests, though supplies are limited to four tests per week. housing. And as of Saturday, insurers are required to cover the cost of quick tests purchased from retailers, though in some cases it will require consumers to seek reimbursement afterwards, which can be cumbersome.
Asked why the administration did not carry out more test actions earlier, the White House press secretary replied. Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden’s commitment to voting gives rise to speculation Overnight Defense & National Security – US says Russia prepares ‘false flag’ operation Biden administration says Russia has arrested Colonial Pipeline hacker MORE said Thursday that actions on testing have been a “building process” over time.
The White House notes that it previously invested $ 3 billion to increase rapid testing, and that the supply of rapid testing in the United States was more than $ 300 million in December, up from $ 24 million in August. It also has a new test coordinator, Tom Inglesby, an expert from Johns Hopkins University.
still, President BidenJoe BidenSunday shows preview: Democrats’ fight for the bill on voting rights comes to mind David Weil: Wrong man, wrong place, wrong time Biden’s choice on voting rights gives reason to guess MORE has acknowledged some shortcomings in testing.
“I wish I had thought about ordering half a billion [tests] two months ago, he told ABC News last month.
Amidst the highly transferable omicron variant, experts have also urged the public to use better masks like N95 or KN95s, as simple fabric masks provide far less protection.
Biden said more details would come next week on how Americans can get high-quality masks for free.
“I know for some Americans, a mask is not always affordable or convenient to get,” he said.
Asked to be “late” in supplying higher quality masks, Psaki said on Friday that the administration had already made 30 million available across the country and stockpiled 750 million.
Leana Wen, a professor of public health at George Washington University, said recent announcements are “steps in the right direction,” but agreed with Senate Democrats that the administration has been “reactive not proactive.”
“We should have increased our mask game with the alpha variant more than a year ago,” she said.
Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, also said that last year “the delta increase should have been the warning shot” to get more tests.
She also urged the administration to think about what steps are needed in the next phase of the virus. When the omicron rise subsides, which may be as soon as next month, the country may be a better place, given that people will have higher levels of immunity, although another variant always poses a risk.
“Should we finally roll out the N95s when most of the country has got it?” she asked.
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