President Joe Biden announced a six-pronged approach the administration will undertake to further combat COVID-19 during a public address on Sept. 9.
The strategy includes new vaccination requirements, including forthcoming regulations from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that will require vaccinations for workers in health care settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid payments. The same mandates will apply to federal workers. The AAMC previously issued a statement and joined other health care groups in calling for health care facilities to require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees [refer to Washington Highlights, July 30].
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will also issue an emergency temporary standard that will require employers with more than 100 workers to mandate vaccinations or weekly SARS-CoV-2 testing for employees.
President Biden also reiterated the administration’s guidance on COVID-19 booster shots, noting that they would be widely available once approved by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
The strategy addresses ongoing care for COVID-19 patients by committing to double the number of Department of Defense COVID-19 Surge Response Teams available to assist in hot spot regions. The plan also aims to increase shipments of monoclonal antibody treatments and amend the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act declaration to broaden the type of providers who are eligible to administer the antibody treatments.
The administration also aims to increase the rate of testing through increased manufacturing and greater access to in-home tests and tests in pharmacy settings. The approach also reiterates the Transportation Security Administration’s recent extension of the public transportation mask requirement through Jan. 18, 2022 — a change that the AAMC previously expressed support for [refer to Washington Highlights, Aug. 27].
The remaining arms of the strategy address reducing COVID-19 transmission in schools, specifically for the population of students under 12 years old, and providing new flexibilities and processes for small businesses to receive federal loans.
The administration is expected to make additional announcements in the coming weeks regarding efforts to combat COVID-19 globally.
This six-pronged strategy to address COVID-19 follows the Sept. 3 release of the administration’s $65 billion preparedness plan to combat future pandemics. The preparedness strategy includes five main pillars: improving medical defenses such as vaccines and therapeutics, bolstering early warning and real-time monitoring of infectious diseases, strengthening public health systems, enhancing stockpiles, and creating a unified biodefense response "Mission Control” with staff from several federal agencies.
The preparedness plan requests that at least $15 billion of the proposal be funded through the current budget reconciliation package. Committees in the House of Representatives began marking up specific provisions of the reconciliation package during the week of Sept. 6 [refer to related story].