President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a host of new federal actions intended to lessen the impact of the fast-spreading Omicron variant in the United States this winter by making it easier for Americans to get tested for COVID-19, getting more people vaccinated against it, shoring up the nation's health care infrastructure.
Biden prefaced his comments with a reminder that he promised Americans at the beginning of his presidency that he would always be honest about the situation facing the country.
"If you're not fully vaccinated, you have good reason to be concerned. You're at a high risk of getting sick," Biden said.
The stark warning comes as data indicate the Omicron variant has now become the dominant strain of all new infections in the U.S.
Much is still not known about the seriousness of the variant, but scientists said vaccination should offer strong protections against severe illness and death.
The president said, on the whole, the nation is in a far better position now to handle the potential ravages of the Omicron strain than it was in March 2020, when the onset of the pandemic forced schools and businesses to close, COVID tests were hard to get, and there were no vaccines.
The White House said 73% of adult Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and approximately a million of those are getting booster shots every day.
Biden said getting boosted is critically important in adding another level of protection as many breakthrough cases as it's expected there will be due to Omicron.
"I got my booster shot as soon as they were available, and just the other day, former President Trump announced he had gotten his booster shot -- it may be one of the few things he and I agree on," said Biden.
Biden said a cornerstone of the Omicron strategy is using the Defense Production Act to accelerate production of at-home tests and, beginning in January, the distribution of 500 million such tests to Americans who want them,
"We'll be getting these tests to Americans for free, and we'll have websites where you can get them delivered to your home," the president said.
To aid in getting more American's vaccinated and boosted, Biden said FEMA will stand up new pop-up vaccination clinics across the country. To help hospitals, which could be overrun, Biden said federal medical personnel, including a thousand from the military, will be deployed.
"That's 1,000 military doctors, nurses and medics," said the president. "We've already started moving military and medical teams."
The government will also stockpile and supply medical equipment where it's needed.
The president said he knows people are tired of it all, and many just want to know if they can safely celebrate Christmas.
"The answer is, yes, you can," Biden said. "If you and those you celebrate with are vaccinated."