The Biden administration's Covid-19 Response team held a briefing on Wednesday morning, which for the first time showed all of the respondents in person, and not on virtual screens. Biden's Covid spokesperson Jeff Zeints spoke about Biden's plan to ease the nation out of the pandemic era. As to the cost of this plan, Zeints refused to answer a reporter's question, saying that the number would be communicated to Congress.
In response to questions, the CDC said that masking in travel is still in place through March 18 and, "there are no plans to revisit that at this time." CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said that double masking is still a good idea, and that people should wear "more high-quality masks."
Zeints said that the National Covid-19 Preparedness Plan, being released today, is "robust and comprehensive, as its plan is a product of many weeks of work with experts inside and outside of government, local public health leaders, and partners across our federal agencies."
The plan, Zeints said, has four components: to "protect against and treat Covid, to prepare for any new variants, to prevent economic and school shutdowns," and to "vaccinate the world and save lives."
Zeints said that there were more tools available now than the original tools, which were masks and social distancing. Now, he said, there is "an unprecedented vaccination program." He touted the benefits of vaccination and following those vaccinations with booster shots. Much of Biden's plan is to get more Americans vaccinated.
As for parents of children under five, who Zeints said "are eager to provide their kids the protection" of vaccinations, "the president's plan ensures that as soon as a vaccine is authorized," the administration will make sure to provide vaccines for all children.
Treatment and preventive therapies, such as monoclonal antibody treatments, are also available, along with Pfizers' "game-changer," a new pill for Covid. There will soon be "one million of these treatment courses available," Zeints said. A "test to treat initiative" is being developed, so that people can test for Covid and get treated in the same visit. More masks and testing are also being rolled out.
"Vaccines, treatments, tests, masks, these tools are how we continue to enable us to move forward safely and get back to our normal routines," Zeints said.
"Going out to eat at a restaurant, taking that long-delayed trip, arranging a playdate for your kids," Zeints said would be part of normal life again. He did not acknowledge that for many Americans, this has been the case for some time.
HHS Secretary Becerra said that the logistics hub developed under Covid would remain a permanent fixture of his department. He spoke as well about the approach of the Covid response being based on concerns over "equity." Becerra also noted that Biden has launched a new mental health initiative for all Americans.
"Under the President's plan," Zeints said, "we'll continue to insert ensure that our schools' workers and workplaces have the resources they need. This includes the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, issuing a new clean air in buildings checklist, a set of recommendations to improve indoor air quality through effective ventilation practices as we move forward. The President believes Americans should be able to stay home if they do get COVID so they can protect others and take care of themselves and their loved ones without the added burden of missing a paycheck. That's why the President's plan calls on Congress to reinstate tax credits to help small and mid-sized businesses provide paid sick and family lead to those sick with COVID 19."
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky spoke to their plans to surveil the nation for Covid, including wastewater surveillance and genomic sequencing.
Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke to the National Institute of Health's plans, saying that "we know we will have to contend with Covid at some level for some time to come." He said that research would be ongoing "to prepare us for future pandemics."
In closing, Zeints said that Biden's plan "will enable us to move forward safely, to get back to our more normal routines." But that to do it, Congress needs to fund these plans.