Biden to lay out ‘path ahead’ in COVID-19 fight

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks in honor of labor unions in the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 8, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON, Sept 9 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden on Thursday will press for new approaches to control the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, which rages on despite the wide availability of vaccines, with surging cases in some U.S. statesoverwhelming local hospitals.

In a speech, Biden will focus on new plans to get more people vaccinated, enhancing protection for those who already have had shots and keeping schools open, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The speech will also cover increasing testing and mask-wearing, protecting the economic recovery from the pandemic-induced recession, and improving healthcare for people infected with the disease, she saidin television interviews.

“He … really wants to lay out the path ahead,” Psaki told MSNBC on Thursday ahead of Biden’s remarks, scheduled for 5 p.m. (2100 GMT).

“He’s going to speak directly to vaccinated people and their frustration, and he wants them to hear how we’re going to build on what we’ve done to date to get the virus under control and to return to some version of normal in this country,” she added.

Increasing infections have raised concerns as children head back to school, while also rattling investors and upending company return-to-office plans.

Just over 53% of Americans are fully vaccinated, including almost two-thirds of the adult population, according to CDC data. The disease has killed more than 651,000 Americans.

With 160,000 new infections a day, the country is “still in pandemic mode … That’s not even modestly good control,” Biden’s chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci told Axios, adding: “You’ve got to get well below 10,000 before you start feeling comfortable.”

With many Americans still skeptical of the shots, the White House has already planned to offerbooster shots to give additional protection to those who are fully vaccinated. That amounts to a rejection of arguments from the World Health Organization and other advocates that with global vaccine supplies limited, rich countries should pause booster shots until more people worldwide are inoculated.

Psaki also told MSNBC the White House wants to see COVID-19 tests easier to obtain.

Abbott Laboratories (ABT.N) and other test manufacturers are trying to boost production as cases soar, after having scaled back in recent months. CVS Health Corp (CVS.N) also recently imposed limits on the number of at-home tests customers can buy. read more

“It’s hard to find a test… they should be more available and accessible to people across the country,” Psaki said.

The White House says the federal government cannot mandate vaccines nationwide, but it has encouraged school districts, businesses and other entities to require shots.

“We know it works,” Psaki said of inoculations, adding that the administration would build on the push for mandates, offering no further details.

Many school districts have mandated masks, despite heated controversy in some areas, and some have required teachers to be vaccinated or face regular testing. Later on Thursday, the Los Angeles County School Board, the nation’s second largest school district behind New York City, is scheduled to weigh a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for youth 12 and older.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; additional reporting by Susan Heavey
Editing by Robert Birsel and Peter Graff

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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