The White House's coronavirus response team on Friday outlined the different ways the federal government will be working to implement President Joe Biden's ambitious goals unveiled during his prime-time address to the nation Thursday night.
During a speech marking the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday, the President committed to directing all states to open Covid-19 vaccinations to all adults by May 1. He said the administration will also roll out a set of tools after May 1 to help Americans locate places to get a vaccine. Biden also underscored the need to accelerate the reopening of schools and said the administration plans to issue further guidance on what people can and cannot do once fully vaccinated.
White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said during Friday's briefing that the vaccine locator tools first announced by Biden will include setting up a website and a call center. In addition, the administration will deploy technology teams to improve state and local websites providing vaccine appointments.
"By May 1, as vaccines are available in more places, the administration will launch a federally supported website that will show locations near them that will have available vaccines," Zients said. "And because we know that not everyone has internet access or is comfortable online, we will also launch a call center to provide assistance to finding vaccine."
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky added that her agency will be issuing new guidance for childcare programs during the pandemic, emphasizing the importance of mask-wearing for everyone 2 years of age and older, as well as air ventilation and other strategies.
"Today, CDC is again releasing updated guidance based on the most recent science," Walensky said at the briefing. "That science includes additional evidence showing that, when used consistently and correctly, prevention strategies such as mask-wearing, staying home when sick, and good hand hygiene can allow childcare programs to operate safely and reduce the spread of Covid-19."
The guidance, updated on the CDC's website on Friday, notes that "even after childcare providers and staff are vaccinated, there will be a need to continue prevention measures for the foreseeable future, including wearing masks, physical distancing and other important prevention strategies outlined in this guidance document."
Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the Biden administration's Covid-19 equity task force leader, outlined the administration's steps toward equity during Friday's briefing.
"We know a person's zip code is a stronger driver of health than their genetic code. So we will continue to prioritize getting the necessary resources to those areas and communities that have been hardest hit, and are at highest risk," Nunez-Smith said during Friday's Covid briefing.
Nunez-Smith touted vaccine delivery to up to 700 additional community health centers reaching underserved communities, the doubling of pharmacy locations, and the surging of vaccinators through expanding those eligible to administer shots to include people such as dentists, optometrists and medical students. She also discussed expanded efforts to recruit new volunteers to vaccinate individuals, including the launch of a new online portal where potential volunteers can check to see if they're eligible to administer the vaccine.
In an effort to quickly ramp up vaccinations and promote vaccine distribution to at-risk populations, Zients also announced a new FEMA-supported vaccination site in Detroit at the Detroit Lions' Ford Field. The site has the ability to administer 6,000 vaccinations per day, he said.
The additional site brings the total of FEMA-supported sites to 19 sites.