Update (1230ET): Biden is also reportedly planning to expand his use of the Defense Production Act (also known as the DPA) to include supplies needed to make rubber gloves and masks. The order harkens back to the hectic days of the early pandemic, when ‘PPE’ was in short supply at American hospitals.
The Biden administration will use wartime powers to significantly increase the supply of rapid at-home and point-of-care COVID-19 tests, a move some experts say could go a long way in slowing the spread of the virus. The act will also be used to “rapidly surge” domestic testing capabilities, investing money in six suppliers to produce 61MM at-home and point-of-care tests available by the end of the summer, according to Tim Manning, the White House COVID-19 response team supply coordinator.
“The country is well behind where we need to be on testing, particularly the rapid at-home tests that will allow us all to get back to normal activities like work and school,” Manning said.
The DPA will also be used to increase the supply of raw materials on everything from vaccines to surgical gloves.
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While some in the media questioned President Trump’s rhetoric about “counting on the military” to handle the national vaccination effort (even though soldiers were largely deployed behind the scenes anyway, as the NYT once reported) they remain seemingly supportive as CNN reports the Biden Administration is expected to copy President Trump’s rollout plan, and deploy 1K+ soldiers to assist with the US vaccination effort nationwide.
The plan reportedly calls for the troops to form into five teams to travel to designated sites around the country, presumably areas where health-care systems are most under-staffed/overwhelmed.
The orders are expected to call for the troops to be ready to deploy within four days.
The mobilization follows a request from FEMA to the Pentagon to provide military assistance providing vaccinations – anything to meet President Joe Biden’s goal of vaccinating 100MM Americans during his first 100 days in office.
US Northern Command in Colorado Springs is expected to coordinate the deployment and decide exactly which troops will go where; this could potentially include active-duty personnel, in addition to more national guard troops (many members of the Guard are already deployed across the country, but this deployment has nothing to do with that).
White House Covid-19 senior adviser Andy Slavitt confirmed Friday that part of the group will begin to arrive in California within the next 10 days to start operations in the area around February 15, “with additional vaccination missions soon to follow.”
While CNN reported 1,000 troops; FEMA and the Pentagon had discussed calling in as many as 10K troops, and it’s still possible the final tally might be closer to that number. The ultimate goal according to CNN is to have the military “ramp up” vaccinations to 450K/day.
There is already a separate National Guard deployment across the country.
“There are over 20,000 national guardsmen deployed providing COVID support including at over 216 vaccine sites in 36 states and territories,’ said Max Rose, COVID Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Defense.
The US isn’t alone in mobilizing its military. UK PM Boris Johnson was prepared to send troops to British schools to help with the back-to-school effort, before he ultimately decided on moving ahead with the latest UK lockdown.
So the media remains quietly supportive of troops being utlized on American soil to help with vaccinations, as Biden continues to follow President Trump’s plan for vaccination rollouts.