White House officials detailed their approach to the next, less disruptive stage of life with COVID, in which Americans would mostly return to their pre-pandemic routines. But precautions and vigilance still will be required, CNN reports. "Vaccines, treatments, tests, masks—these tools are how we continue to protect people and enable us to move forward safely," said Jeff Zients, the Biden administration's COVID-19 response coordinator. The National Covid-19 Preparedness Plan has four areas of focus, per USA Today: preventing infection and treating those who have contracted the disease; preparing for the next coronavirus variants; heading off school and economic shutdowns; and supporting the global fight against COVID. The plan includes:
- Test to Treat: Promised in President Biden's State of the Union address on Tuesday, this initiative is to get rolling with the opening of hundreds of locations in March in CVS, Walgreens, and Kroger pharmacies; Veterans Affairs sites; and community health centers. People can take a COVID test and, if they test positive, be given free antiviral pills on the spot, officials said.
- Avoiding shutdowns: To keep schools and businesses open, the plan calls for funding improved ventilation and air filtration in buildings, as well as purchasing more tests and supplies. Sick leave for workers who had to stay out because they were ill or they were caring for someone who was would be included. Congress would have to approve funding for these measures.
- Being ready for the next one: Data collection, including wastewater tracking, would be expanded and speeded up, as would review of vaccines and treatments intended for new variants. Genomic surveillance, which can detect new variants early, also would be expanded.
- Online help: A website will go live this month, Zients said, to help people find vaccines and masks nearby. Beginning next week, people will be able to go to COVIDTests.gov to order four free coronavirus tests.
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