Biden dodges questions on COVID after speech where he announced plan for one billion at-home tests

President Joe Biden announced on Thursday the federal government would be doubling the amount of at-home COVID-19 test kits sent to American homes to a total number of one billion.

He also revealed the White House is unveiling a plan next week to get free and low-cost masks to people as the highly transmissible but less severe Omicron variant rips through the country. 

After a somewhat meandering 10-minute speech updating the nation on the pandemic, Biden ignored reporters’ shouted questions with a smirk on his face while waiting to begin his COVID-19 health briefing.

‘Folks, we’ll talk about that later, come on,’ the president said after one member of the news media tried to ask why vaccinated Americans must continue ‘to restrict their activities.’

A few seconds later, an exasperated journalist can be heard asking Biden: ‘Maybe a press conference soon, Mr. President? We’d look forward to that.’

‘Me too,’ Biden quipped with a toothy grin.

At one point during his White House address Biden bungled the name of his new COVID testing czar, former director of Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security Dr. Tom Inglesby.

‘I’ve taught — excuse me, I’ve tapped Dr. Tom I — I hope I’m pronouncing it — Ingl — Inglesby. Correct. Is that right?’ he seemingly directs to someone off-screen.

Biden gave a somewhat rambling 10-minute address after which he ignored shouted questions from reporters

He also promised to roll out a plan to get free face masks to American homes next week

He also promised to roll out a plan to get free face masks to American homes next week

‘And he’s one of the world’s leading infectious disease experts, and I’m grateful for his willingness to help tackle this challenge.’

The president also acknowledged that both vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans are catching and spreading the highly transmissible Omicron variant, but maintained that this is still a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’ in how those COVID cases play out. 

This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. And I mean by this — right now both vaccinated and unvaccinated people are testing positive. But what happens after that could not be more different,’ Biden explained.

‘When vaccinated people test positive, they overwhelmingly have either no symptoms at all, or they have mild symptoms. And if they’re — if you’re unvaccinated, if they test positive, there are — you’re 17 times more likely to get hospitalized. 

He went on to blame unvaccinated Americans for crowding ICUs and straining health care systems across the country. 

‘They’re crowding our hospitals, leaving little room for anyone else who might have a heart attack or an injury in an automobile accident, or any injury at all. And yes, the unvaccinated are dying from COVID-19,’ Biden said.

The Omicron variant has sent COVID cases surging nationwide once again, though the rate of virus-linked deaths hasn’t risen to the same level.  

Rather than credit the new mutation generating less severe intentions than past strains, Biden said it was because of his administration’s efforts to get people inoculated.

‘Here’s the deal: Because we fully vaccinated nearly 210 million Americans, the majority of the country is safe from severe COVID-19 consequences. That’s why even as the number of cases among the vaccinated Americans go up, deaths are down dramatically,’ Biden said.

Coronavirus cases in states hit early by the Omicron variant — Maryland, New York and New Jersey — are seeing their rate of average new cases begin to drop, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Biden also bungled the name of Dr. Tom Inglesby, his new COVID testing czar

Biden also bungled the name of Dr. Tom Inglesby, his new COVID testing czar

Los Angeles’ new case rate also saw a steep drop after hitting an all-time high of 52,200 infections recorded on January 4. By January 10 the number was 9,300. 

Nationwide deaths have spiked by 20 percent but are still well below the peaks of winter 2020, even though more COVID infections are being recorded. 

Biden reiterated appeals for Americans to wear masks in indoor and crowded settings, touting the government ‘more than tripling’ its stockpile of N95 masks since he took office.

Biden said the White House is ‘on track to roll out a website next week where you can order free tests shipped to your home,’ after being criticized for his administration’s delayed response to the latest wave of infections.

‘And in addition to the 500 million — half a billion tests that are in the process of being acquired to ship to you home for free, today, I’m directing my team to procure an additional half a billion — additional 500 million more tests to distribute for free. I mean a billion tests in total to meet future demand,’ he said. 

Vice President Kamala Harris said Thursday the administration would start sending out the first of 500 million home coronavirus test kits ‘soon’ – but offered no specifics as the administration tries to gets the program going. 

‘Shortly – they’re going to go out shortly,’ Harris said when asked on NBC’s ‘Today’ show when the tests would finally start getting shipped to Americans. 

'They're going to go out shortly,' said Vice President Kamala Harris when asked when the first of 500 million home covid tests would start getting shipped

‘They’re going to go out shortly,’ said Vice President Kamala Harris when asked when the first of 500 million home covid tests would start getting shipped

‘They’ve been ordered. They’ve been ordered,’ she said. Interviewer Craig Melvin pushed her for more information. ‘I have to look at the current information. I think it’s going to be by next week. But soon. Absolutely soon. And it is a matter of urgency for us,’ she said. 

‘Should we have done that sooner?’ Melvin asked her. 

‘We are doing it,’ was Harris’ response. 

‘But should we have done it sooner,’ he pressed again.

‘We are doing it,’ Harris responded. 

A White House official said Thursday that President Biden would announce Thursday that in addition to the 500 million tests ‘that we are in the process of acquiring, he is directing his team to procure 500 million more tests to meet future demand.’

People wait in a long line to get a COVID-19 test, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, in North Miami, Fla. The administration announced the plans to ship tests amid the omicron wave. Many schools adopted 'test to return' policies after the holidays

People wait in a long line to get a COVID-19 test, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, in North Miami, Fla. The administration announced the plans to ship tests amid the omicron wave. Many schools adopted ‘test to return’ policies after the holidays

Harris also rejected calls for a new approach to covid, and continued to press Americans who aren’t vaccinated to get their shots – following calls for change from a group of experts who served as Biden’s covid advisors before he took office.

‘Every day it is time for us to agree that there are things and tools that are available to us to slow this thing down,’ Harris said. ‘We are in the midst of a surge. That’s where we are right now. And so right now, we know we still have a number of people that, that is in the millions of Americans who have not been vaccinated, and could be vaccinated, and we are urging them to get vaccinated because it will save their life.’ 

The administration says the U.S. Postal Service will deliver the tests to Americans who request them. But the administration says it won’t put up the web site until the tests are in hand.

DailyMail.com reported Wednesday that a company that got a $190 million contract for the tests doesn’t manufacture tests, and got into the business of personal protective equipment only at the start of the pandemic. Its first business offering was a vodka bottle equipped with special programmable LED lights and a bluetooth connection. 

Another firm based in Texas is also warehousing tests, but not making them. It’s largest government contract came last year and was for just $1 million. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk

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