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Credit…Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

The White House released a new coronavirus strategy on Wednesday, a 96-page plan to move the United States into what some call a “new normal” with four main goals: protect against and treat Covid-19; prepare new variants; avoid closures and fight the virus abroad.

“Make no mistake, President Biden will not simply agree to ‘live with Covid’ any more than we agree to ‘live with’ cancer, Alzheimer’s or AIDS,” the plan states. “We will continue our work to stop the spread of the virus, mitigate its impact on those infected and deploy new treatments to significantly reduce the occurrence of severe Covid-19 illness and death.”

The plan follows the President’s State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, which Mr. Biden used to outline the next phase of his response to the pandemic, including a “test to treat” initiative aimed at providing patients on antiviral drugs as soon as possible. when they learn they are infected.

Although this initiative is new, much of the strategy builds on actions already taken by the administration. And much of it will require funding from Congress.

For example, the strategy also includes a plan, unveiled by the White House in November, that will require funding from Congress to expand manufacturing capacity, with the goal of producing at least one billion additional doses per year – three times the population. American – and to accelerate research on a universal vaccine against Covid-19 that would protect against all variants.

The administration also pledged in the plan to work with Congress to “give schools and businesses guidance, testing, and supplies to stay open, including tools to improve air ventilation and filtration.” air”.

Mr Biden took office more than a year ago with a 200-page plan to tackle the coronavirus, which was the most pressing challenge of his fledgling presidency. Since then, more than 200 million Americans have been vaccinated. Two new waves – one powered by the Delta variant, the other by Omicron – claimed almost a million lives.

The idea behind the new strategy is to get the nation out of crisis mode and get to a place, Mr Biden said, where the virus will no longer disrupt daily life. The President spoke broadly about the way forward in his State of the Union address; the new plan fleshes out the speech with details.

“I know you’re tired, frustrated and exhausted,” he said Tuesday, adding, “But I also know this: because of the progress we’ve made, because of your resilience and the tools that have been provided by this Congress tonight, I can say that we are moving safely back to more normal routines.

Under the “test to treat” program, Mr. Biden said, Americans could get tested at a pharmacy and, if positive, “receive antiviral pills on site at no cost.”

Although the pills, made by Pfizer, have been relatively rare since they were approved late last year, Mr Biden said in his speech that “Pfizer is working overtime to get us a million pills this month. and more than double next month.”

A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity to provide additional details, said people could receive pills through the program starting this month, including places like CVS, Walgreens and Kroger.

The initiative will also involve educating the public about the availability of new antiviral treatments, the official said, and the importance of starting them soon after symptoms start. And it will distribute them directly to long-term care facilities.

Mr. Biden also promised in his Tuesday night speech to prepare for new variants, saying that if needed, his administration could roll out new vaccines within 100 days of a variant arriving. He called on Congress to provide new funds to the administration to stockpile more tests, masks and pills. He also said that Americans who order free home tests from a government website, covidtests.govwill be able to order more from next week.

“I can’t promise a new variant won’t come,” he said. “But I can promise you that we will do everything in our power to be ready if that is the case.”

There are on average about 60,000 new US cases per day, according to a New York Times database. This is far below the daily average of 800,000 in January, at the height of the winter surge fueled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. But that’s still more than five times the daily workload last June, before Delta caused a summer surge.

Even as Mr. Biden proclaims things are looking up, large groups of Americans remain at risk. Children under 5 are not yet eligible for vaccination. On Monday, New York state health officials released data showing that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is significantly less effective at preventing infection in children ages 5 to 11 than in adolescents. or adults.

And an estimated seven million Americans have weakened immune systems, illnesses or other disabilities that make them more vulnerable to severe Covid. The White House announced last week that it was taking several steps to make masks and coronavirus testing more accessible to people with disabilities.

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