President Biden speaks about the COVID-19 variant named Omicron during a visit to the National Institutes of Health on Thursday.

President Biden speaks about the COVID-19 variant named Omicron during a visit to the National Institutes of Health on Thursday. Evan Vucci / AP

Biden Announces Tripling of Federal Deployments to Fight COVID-19 Surge

Agencies will send teams around the country ahead of winter and Omicron variant waves.

The Biden administration is once again ramping up deployments from federal agencies to combat a winter surge in COVID-19 cases, looking to address a seasonal uptick and the introduction of the Omicron variant. 

The deployments are one element of a nine-part plan President Biden announced on Thursday to fight against a potential new wave in the pandemic similar to the one the United States and the rest of the world experienced last winter. The administration has so far deployed 2,000 federal personnel through its COVID-19 Response Teams, part of an effort it launched over the summer to address the Delta variant surge.  

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will launch a new Family Mobile Vaccination Clinic program, providing teams around the country to help states inoculate their citizens. The clinics will create a “one-stop shop” for entire families to get their shots, a senior administration official said on Wednesday, including for kids to get their first dose and parents and grandparents to get their boosters. The first teams will go to Washington and New Mexico, while FEMA is also preparing a playbook for other states to stand up their own, similar sites. 

The federal government has deployed staff throughout the pandemic, though it briefly pulled back earlier this year as cases waned to prepare for hurricane season. The emergency response teams were made up of personnel from FEMA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies. They have helped with testing, contact tracing, therapeutics and vaccinations. 

Biden is now making available more than 60 teams for additional emergency response, up from the 20 teams currently deployed. That will include medical teams in the Defense Department, the National Disaster Medical System—which is made up of personnel from Defense and the departments of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs—monoclonal antibody strike teams and 15 CDC expert teams to provide data analysis and field investigations.   

“As we face the potential of a new variant and rising cases during the winter months, today, the president will make clear that federal government will once again be prepared to help,” the White House said in a fact sheet on its plan. 

Biden said on Thursday the deployments will provide “badly needed staff” to overrun hospitals and “life-saving treatments” to communities with high infection rates.

“These teams work,” Biden said, noting the praise for them he has heard from governors of states where they have deployed. 

The president also tasked HHS with launching a new public education campaign “to ensure every adult American is getting their booster as soon as they are eligible,” to include paid advertising, community engagement and stakeholder outreach. HHS, in conjunction with the departments of Labor and Treasury, will soon issue guidance to guarantee at-home COVID-19 tests are covered by private insurance.