President Biden on Monday promised the federal government would do all it could to assist states facing surges in COVID-19 cases from the contagious Omicron variant, assuring governors that the administration was seeking to boost testing and vaccination capacity.
"My message to the governors is simple: If you need something, say something, and we are going to have your back any way we can," Biden said during a meeting between his coronavirus response team and the National Governors Assn.
Biden's pledge came a week after federal health officials said Omicron surpassed the Delta variant as the leading cause of new infections. California has also recorded a spike in cases, averaging more than 11,000 new coronavirus cases per day - a 73% jump from two weeks ago, according to data compiled by The Times.
The president acknowledged Americans were confronting long lines to be tested over the holidays and that his administration was seeking to alleviate a shortfall in tests. Under an administration plan Biden announced last week, 500 million rapid at-home COVID-19 tests will be available to Americans beginning next month.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is also establishing pop-up testing sites in areas with high demand, Biden said, adding that the agency had set up six testing sites in New York City. "There are more coming," he added.
"Seeing how tough it was for folks to get a test this weekend shows we have more work to do, and we're doing it," Biden said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House's top medical advisor, stated during an interview on Monday with MSNBC that although the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, early data show it results in cases that are less severe.
Fauci and other medical experts are considering reducing the mandated 10-day isolation period for essential workers infected with the virus.
"If they have an essential job, we want to get them back on the job," Fauci said, adding those isolation guidelines may also change for the general public.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.