Biden Vows Schools and Businesses Will Remain Open in Omicron Speech

President Joe Biden vowed Tuesday to not impose lockdowns on schools and businesses this winter as part of his response to the Omicron variant.

Omicron is now believed to be the prominent strain of the CCP virus, which causes the disease COVID-19, in the United States.

In an address Dec. 21, the president said that while the new variant is expected to increase the number of COVID-19 cases nationally among both vaccinated and unvaccinated populations in the coming weeks, the federal government will not order any new lockdowns.

“Another question folks are asking is are we going back to March 2020,” Biden said. “The answer is absolutely no.”

In 2020, while President Donald Trump was in office, governors across the country imposed strict lockdown measures to try to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Biden cited the nation’s vaccination rate and the federal stockpile of personal protective equipment for hospitals as reasons to not lockdown this winter.

“Last year we thought the only way to keep children safe was to close your schools,” said Biden. “Today we know more, and we have more resources to keep those schools open.”

He added: “Today we don’t have to shut down schools because of a case of COVID-19. Now if a student tests positives other students can take the test and stay in the classroom if they’re not infected rather than closing the whole school or having to quarantine.”

Biden also used part of his speech to applaud a recent victory in federal appeals court for his vaccine mandate—a rule through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to require all employers with 100 or more employees to require proof of vaccination or weekly negative tests of all employees.

“These rules are going to help keep workers safe, and keeping workers safe will help keep businesses open,” he said, maintaining the rule is legal and effective despite being “unpopular.”

About 200 million Americans are considered fully vaccinated against the virus and Biden is adding 10,000 additional vaccination sites to the 80,000 already up and running nationwide.

He added that there are 20,000 free testing sites while adding that the Defense Production Act has allowed for $3 billion to be used to “expand the number of at-home tests available for purchase online and at your local pharmacy.”

“We also need to do better with at-home testing.  So, I’m announcing today: The federal government will purchase one half billion—that’s not million; billion with a ‘B’—additional at-home rapid tests, with deliveries starting in January,” he said.

“We’ll be getting these tests to Americans for free.  And we’ll have websites where you can get them delivered to your home.”

Biden said he has also ordered the Pentagon to mobilize 1,300 military medical troops to help staff hospitals and FEMA to be ready to help expand hospital capacity if needed.

Nick Ciolino

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Nick Ciolino covers the White House.

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