President Biden to announce purchase of 500 million additional Covid-19 tests

Military medical teams will support several health care systems
Originally Published: 13 JAN 22 05:00 ET
Updated: 13 JAN 22 10:17 ET

(CNN) — President Joe Biden is expected to deliver remarks on Thursday announcing his administration will purchase an additional 500 million Covid-19 tests as well as deploy a new wave of medical teams to six states to help hospitals combat Covid-19, a White House official told CNN.

The 500 million new Covid-19 tests will be purchased to meet future demand and are in addition to the previously announced 500 million tests the White House is in the process of acquiring, according to a White House official.

The military medical teams will support the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn, Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, Henry Ford Hospital outside Detroit, University of New Mexico hospital in Albuquerque and University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, the official said.

“These teams will be providing relief, triaging patients, helping to decompress overwhelmed emergency departments, and freeing up health care providers to continue other lifesaving care. They will be working alongside health care workers on the front lines to give them the support they need,” the official added.

The deployments come as the Biden administration faces growing scrutiny alongside record Covid-19 hospitalizations, testing challenges and messaging frustration — issues the GOP has seized on.

More than 151,000 Americans were in the hospital with Covid-19 nationwide on Wednesday, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. And the US averaged more than 747,260 new Covid-19 cases daily over the last week, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

That’s about three times last winter’s peak average (251,987 on January 11, 2021), and about 4.5 times the peak from the Delta-driven surge (166,347 on September 1), according to JHU.

The surge has put considerable stress on hospitals nationwide. And, to combat the massive strain on health care services that comes as more staff members call out sick with the virus, state leaders have enacted emergency procedures to help hospitals cope.

“The sudden and steep rise in cases due to Omicron is resulting in unprecedented daily case counts, sickness, absenteeism, and strains on our health care system,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a Wednesday briefing.

Biden had announced plans last month to mobilize 1,000 military medical personnel to help overwhelmed hospitals amid the Omicron surge. “These are just part of the first wave of deployments,” the White House official said of the latest mobilizations. “Teams will continue to be mobilized and deployed where they are needed over the coming weeks to confront Omicron.”

The President will be joined on Thursday by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell for a briefing on the deployment of resources and personnel. The trio will also speak with federal surge teams already deployed to hospitals in Arizona, New York and Michigan.

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