Biden to send military medical teams to help hospitals as omicron surges

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President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he will deploy more than 120 military medical personnel to six states hit hard by COVID-19 hospitalizations: Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island and New Mexico. A surge of COVID-19 cases due to the highly infectious omicron variant has overwhelmed some hospitals in recent weeks.

These teams will be deployed to hospitals, including the Cleveland Clinic's main campus in Cleveland, Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn and the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque. 

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While the latest research suggests omicron leads to less severe disease than the delta variant, it's continuing to cause large numbers of COVID-19 cases. As of Thursday, more than 155,000 people were in hospitals across the US being treated for COVID, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.  Last month, Biden outlined efforts his administration is taking to fight the pandemic, including more pop-up vaccination sites in areas of high demand and a plan to distribute free, at-home rapid tests to Americans.

During Thursday's remarks, he provided more details on those plans. In addition to working with FEMA to add more testing sites and making high-quality masks available free to all Americans, the White House is on track to roll out a website where you'll be able to order free rapid COVID-19 tests that will be shipped to your home.  The administration already worked on procuring 500 million tests to distribute as part of next week's rollout, and today, Biden said his team would procure 500 million more -- for a total of 1 billion free COVID-10 tests to be distributed.

Biden continued to ask Americans to get vaccinated, get the booster and to wear masks while indoors in public spaces. He highlighted that vaccinated Americans overwhelmingly either have no or mild symptoms if they contract COVID-19. In contrast, Biden said unvaccinated Americans are 17 times more likely to be hospitalized after contracting COVID, "crowding the hospitals, leaving little room for anyone else."

"If you haven't gotten vaccinated yet, do it," Biden said. "Do it today, please, for your sake, the sake of your kids, the sake of the country."