White House launches COVID surge response teams to tackle Delta variant

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President Biden on Tuesday said the White House is launching “COVID-19 surge response teams” in an effort to prevent another spike in coronavirus cases amid the rising threat from the Delta variant. 

As part of a five-phase response to the Delta variant – now active in every U.S. state—Biden said the teams will be made up of people tasked from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other government-based groups. 

“They’re going to help states,” Biden said during a press event. The teams will “prevent, detect and respond” to the coronavirus cases in communities with low vaccination rates.

Biden said that the U.S. will have 160 million fully vaccinated individuals by the end of the week – a goal that misses his July 4 target date by roughly a week. 

But despite the drastic increase in the number of shots administered since he took office in January, some states still have “very low” vaccination rates.

“We are going to deploy things like testing to expand detection of the virus, medicines to help treat the infected, and we’re going to provide federal personnel to fill gaps in staffing and technical experts to help investigate outbreaks,” Biden told reporters. He added: “Cause they’re going to happen in states with very low vaccination rates.

“The bottom line is my administration is doing everything it can to lead a whole government response at the federal, state, and local level to defeat the pandemic.”

Biden said that coronavirus cases and deaths have decreased by 90 percent since the beginning of the year. 

But the Delta variant has become an increasing threat and now accounts for half of all coronavirus cases.

“It’s more easily transmissible and potentially more dangerous,” Biden said Tuesday in a plea to unvaccinated Americans. “Since early May, virtually every COVID-19 hospitalization and death in the United States has been among the unvaccinated.”

Biden urged people who have not yet been vaccinated to go and get the shot, saying it is the “patriotic thing to do.”

In an effort to encourage more Americans to get the vaccine, Biden said vaccination sites will shift to be more “community” focused by increasing vaccines at pharmacies and local doctor offices. 

Family doctors’ offices can also expect to receive more vaccines so kids ages 12- 18 can get their shots when they get their physical for fall sports. 

Mobile clinics and work-based vaccine opportunities will also be prioritized as mass vaccination centers are shut down. 

The U.S. has reported 33.5 million cases of the coronavirus, along with more than 600,000 deaths during the pandemic.   

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