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U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Omicron COVID-19 variant following a meeting with his COVID-19 response team, including U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris (left) and Anthony Fauci (right), Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Chief Medical Adviser to the President, at the White House on Nov. 29, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Omicron COVID-19 variant following a meeting with his COVID-19 response team, including U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris (left) and Anthony Fauci (right), Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Chief Medical Adviser to the President, at the White House on Nov. 29, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Anna Moneymaker, Getty Images/TNS)

WASHINGTON — Warning that COVID-19 caseloads are poised to climb this winter, President Joe Biden said Thursday that “we need to be ready” as he announced his plan for limiting the spread of infection.

Adding urgency to his efforts is the arrival of the omicron variant, which was first reported in South Africa last week. Although scientists are still studying the variant, the World Health Organization has warned that the risk of new global outbreaks is “very high.”

Biden said public health officials believe current vaccines till provide protection against the mutated version of the coronavirus.

“If you’re worried about the omicron variant, the best thing to do is get fully vaccinated, and then get your booster shot when you’re eligible,” he said. “We don’t yet believe that additional measures will be needed.”

Under Biden’s new plan, pharmacies will start reaching out to an estimated 100 million Americans who are eligible for booster shots but have not yet received them.

His administration will also require insurance companies to reimburse people for the purchase of home tests. In addition, 50 million home tests are slated for distribution to community health centers and rural clinics, where people without insurance can access them for free.

Biden said he hopes the fight against the coronavirus will “unite us.”

“I know COVID-19 has been very divisive in this country,” he said. “It’s become a political issue, which is a sad, sad commentary. It shouldn’t be, but it has been.”

©2021 Los Angeles Times.

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