Update: The former president and the current president traded unusually pleasant words Tuesday. After President Biden, in his address to the nation regarding COVID, praised "the prior administration" for its work getting vaccines available in the US so quickly, former President Trump told Fox News he was "surprised" but "very appreciative" to hear the comment. "I think he did something very good," Trump said of Biden. "You know, it has to be a process of healing in this country, and that will help a lot." He also declined to say anything negative when asked about the fact that Biden did not get as much pushback on limiting travel from Africa due to omicron as Trump did when he limited travel from China and Europe. "It is a little tough to be overly critical now, because he just thanked us for the vaccine and thanked me for what I did. You know, that’s a first—so it is very tough for me to be overly critical now," he said. Our original story from Tuesday follows:
"I know you’re tired, and I know you’re frustrated. We all want this to be over. But we’re still in it," President Biden said in a speech at the White House on Tuesday, setting out his administration's plans to deal with the winter surge in COVID cases. He said we should be "concerned" about the omicron variant "but not panicked," the Hill reports. He said that with mass vaccination, the US is in a much better place than it was earlier in the pandemic. We "have more tools than we had before," Biden said. "We’re ready, we’ll get through this." He confirmed that his administration plans to buy 500 million at-home COVID tests, which will be delivered through the mail for free to people who request them, starting in January.
Biden—who described COVID as a "tough adversary"—repeated his call for people to get vaccinated as soon as possible, calling it a "patriotic duty," the Washington Post reports. The president said the issue shouldn't be political, noting that Donald Trump has received a booster shot. "It’s the only responsible thing to do," Biden said, per the AP. "Omicron is serious and potentially deadly business for unvaccinated people." He said his administration will not be fighting the surge with mass lockdowns. "We don’t have to shut down schools because of COVID-19," he said.
Biden said his plan also includes new federal COVID testing sites. The administration is also preparing to deploy around 1,000 troops with medical skills to assist hospitals in hard-hit states. Federal medical personnel are already on the way to states including Michigan, Indiana, Arizona, and Vermont. Some experts said that while Biden's plan is a step in the right direction, it won't be enough, the AP reports. Dr. Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research, said he was disappointed by the "lack of boldness." He said other moves could have included redefining "fully vaccinated" as having had three shots of Pfizer or Moderna, not two. (Omicron is now the dominant strain in the US.)