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President Joe Biden is set to deliver a progress report Tuesday on the fight against the coronavirus pandemic as the new and highly contagious omicron variant spreads around the country.
Anticipating a surge in cases this winter, the administration is expected to focus on increasing support for hospitals, expanding access to free Covid tests and increasing the capacity to deliver vaccines.
Biden’s speech comes a day after the White House revealed that the president was in close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. Biden tested negative on Monday, three days after spending about 30 minutes near the staffer during a flight on Air Force One, the White House said.
The unnamed person, described as a “mid-level staff member,” tested negative before the flight but a subsequent test on Monday morning came back positive, press secretary Jen Psaki said. Biden also received a negative antigen test Sunday. He will be tested again Wednesday, she said.
The White House is bracing for more staff members to test positive in the coming days as the omicron variant sweeps the nation. The strain, which was discovered just weeks earlier, now accounts for nearly three-fourths of all new infections in the U.S.
Biden, speaking in the state dining room of the White House, is expected to assure fully vaccinated and boosted Americans that they are protected against the threat of severe illness from the new wave of infections.
The unvaccinated, however, are at a high risk of getting sick and are multiple times more likely to be hospitalized or killed from Covid, Biden is expected to warn.
With about 40 million eligible Americans still unvaccinated, the Biden administration expects a rise in cases.