White House Unveils New COVID Plan: What It Means In Rhode Island

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RHODE ISLAND — People who test positive for COVID-19 at pharmacies in Rhode Island will be able to get anti-viral pills "on the spot" under a new strategy unveiled Wednesday by the White House.

The new national COVID-19 preparedness plan still must be approved and funded by Congress, but formalizes pledges President Joe Biden outlined in his State of the Union speech to make the virus threat more manageable.

It makes more vaccines available and calls for better surveillance of new variants, but rules out school and business closings as optimism grows that COVID-19 will soon be an endemic disease.

Here’s how things stand in Rhode Island as the second anniversary of the pandemic approaches on March 11.

“We look to a future when Americans no longer fear lockdowns, shutdowns, and our kids not going to school,” the plan states. “It’s a future when the country relies on the powerful layers of protection we have built and invests in the next generation of tools to stay ahead of this virus.”

In the United States, COVID-19 has claimed nearly 1 million lives in two years, more than in any other country, according to Johns Hopkins University, which maintains a detailed world tracker and map at its Coronavirus Resource Center website.

Nearly 80 million people in the United States alone have been sickened in the five coronavirus waves that took an exacting toll on the economy, disrupted school for millions of students and upended everyday life.

“It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtown again,” Biden said Tuesday. “People working from home can feel safe to begin to return to the office.”

Americans’ growing weariness with the pandemic are reflected in Biden’s sagging approval ratings. A new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows that only 41 percent of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing, and only 33 percent think the country is headed in the right direction.

In a nod to the growing coronavirus fatigue, Biden highlighted a turning point in the pandemic in his State of the Union speech. “Tonight I can say we are moving forward safely, back to more normal routines,” he said.

Here are some things to know about the plan, which still requires funding from Congress:

  • The Pfizer antiviral pills that will be made available at pharmacies reduce the chances of hospitalization by up to 90 percent. Biden said in his State of the Union speech up to 1 million pills will be available later this month, and more than double that amount will be available in April.

  • Treatments and high-quality masks will be made available to people who are immunocompromised.

  • Free coronavirus tests are still available from the government, even for people who previously ordered four tests.

  • Steps are in place to respond to new variants with new vaccines within 100 days instead of many more months or years.

About three-fourths of adult Americans are fully vaccinated, and hospitalizations are dropping dramatically as the United States moves past the highly contagious omicron variant. The Biden administration is mindful of last year’s premature victory lap ahead of the delta variant, and is reminding Americans coronavirus remains a threat.

Vaccines for children under 5 haven’t yet been approved, but Biden said in his speech scientists are working to get those shots in the arms of young children.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control eased mask guidance for most Americans.

This article originally appeared on the Newport Patch