President Joe Biden pleaded with Congress to quickly provide more funds to combat COVID-19 on Wednesday just before receiving his second booster shot, warning that the U.S. will not have enough supply to easily vaccinate all Americans at no cost in the fall unless Congress acts now.
“Congress, we need to secure additional supply now. We can't wait as we find ourselves in the midst of another surge to act. It will be too late,” Biden said.
The White House requested Congress provide $22.5 billion in emergency funding for “immediate” COVID-19 needs, like buying therapeutics, testing supplies and vaccines. Congressional leaders reached a quick agreement to add a $15.6 billion supplemental to the fiscal 2022 omnibus, but stripped it from the bill when some Democrats objected to the way it was paid for.
Now lawmakers are negotiating over how much money they can provide, and how to offset it, as federal COVID-19 funds dwindle. Last week, the U.S. ran out of money to pay for COVID-19 tests for uninsured individuals.
The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off Tuesday on a fourth COVID-19 shot for those 50 years and older. Biden said that boosters are essential for providing an extra layer of protection for vulnerable individuals, and encouraged Americans who have not received their first booster to do so as soon as possible.
COVID-19 levels are starting to come down across the country, even as a new subvariant, BA.2, picks up speed. Over 91 percent of U.S. counties have low levels of COVID-19 transmission, meaning that there are less than 10 new COVID-19 hospital-related admissions per every 100,000 people per week.
The administration is providing more tools to help Americans cope as the virus becomes more endemic. On Wednesday it launched a “one-stop-shop” for Americans to locate COVID-19 tests, masks, vaccines and therapeutics. The site also has a tool that assesses the level of risk in communities across the country, and is intended to help Americans manage the virus as life begins to return to pre-pandemic normal.
The website, COVID.gov, is meant to help Americans easily access free COVID-19 resources, such as new Test-To-Treat locations, which provide COVID-19 tests and treatments at the same time.
Over the past 14 months, the Biden administration has worked to stand up over 90,0000 vaccination sites and 2,000 Test-to-Treat locations. On Wednesday, the White House announced that Test-to-Treat is available at all VA clinics, more than 24 federally qualified health centers, and Indian Health Service facilities across the country.