WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Top U.S. health officials on Wednesday laid out a national blueprint to manage COVID-19 going forward, vowing to prepare for any new variant outbreaks without shutting down schools and businesses and calling for additional funding from Congress.
“This plan lays out the roadmap to help us fight COVID-19 in the future as we move America from crisis to a time when COVID-19 does not disrupt our daily lives and is something we prevent, protect against, and treat,” the White House said, one day after President Joe Biden acknowledged the nation’s fight against the coronavirus had entered a new phase.
“America must maintain the tools – vaccines, boosters, treatments, tests, and masks – to protect against COVID-19 and dramatically decrease the risk of the most severe outcomes. We must be prepared to respond to a new variant quickly and keep our schools and businesses open,” the updated National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan said.
The White House called on U.S. lawmakers to provide more funding to pay for COVID treatment and tests, among other efforts, saying many of the plan’s initiatives cannot be executed without more investments.
While the plan does not mention a specific dollar amount, sources familiar with the matter last month said the Biden administration was seeking another $30 billion from Congress.
The additional funding would help restock the nation’s stockpile of tests, antiviral pills and masks for Americans; strengthen the nation’s data collection and monitoring capabilities to detect emerging variants; and boost vaccine manufacturing capacity; among other needs, it said.
Biden on Tuesday acknowledged that America must shift with infections declining and various precautions easing two years after COVID shut down large swaths of the country. But he cautioned against complacency against the disease, which experts have said could still surge again with new variants.
“We never will just accept living with COVID-19, we’ll continue to combat the virus, as we do other diseases,” Biden said in his State of the Union speech to Congress.
More than 955,000 people have died from COVID in the United States since early 2020 with a total of 79,114,386 reported U.S. cases, according to a Reuters analysis https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/USA-TRENDS/dgkvlgkrkpb of state and county data.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Berkrot)