US President Joe Biden announced Thursday a winter campaign against Covid-19, with new testing requirements for travelers and a surge in vaccination efforts as the new Omicron variant threatens to revive the pandemic.
Biden has brought steady leadership after the chaotic Donald Trump years, but the mutating coronavirus continues to defy him, helping drive his approval ratings deep underwater.
Urging the nation — in particular his political rivals — to unite behind the strategy, Biden unveiled a raft of actions designed to tamp down Covid-19 in the coming months, as the latest Omicron variant spreads worldwide.
“It’s a plan that I think should unite us,” Biden said, speaking from the headquarters of the National Institutes of Health in a Washington suburb.
“I know Covid-19 has been very divisive. In this country, it’s become a political issue,” he added. “A sad, sad commentary. It shouldn’t be, but it has been.”
Ten cases of the new strain have so far been confirmed in the United States, including five in New York announced Thursday evening by state Governor Kathy Hochul, one in Los Angeles County and one in the Pacific island state of Hawaii.
The Hawaii case and one in Minnesota both involved residents with no recent international travel history, signaling the strain is already circulating inside the country.
“This is a case of community spread. The individual has no history of travel,” the Hawaii Health Department said.
Biden’s updated actions include the requirement that all inbound international travelers be tested within one day of flying.