tv CNN Newsroom With Alisyn Camerota and Victor Blackwell CNN December 21, 2021 11:00am-12:01pm PST
hello again and thanks for joining us. i'm ana cabrera in for victor and alisyn. today president biden will address the nation on the rapidly resurging covid pandemic. and how to mitigate the new threat, omicron, now the dominant strain in the u.s. accounting for 73% of new cases. cnn's chief national affairs correspondent jeff zeleny at the white house. jeff we'll hear two messages, uno one for the vaccinate and unvaccinated >> certainly president biden drawing a big distinction between those vaccinated and boosted and those not. simply saying it's not a repeat of march of 2020 for those who are vaccinated. but for those who are not, that is not necessarily the case.
but the president also is going to really be expressing a sense of urgency. far more so than in his winter plan he rolled out just a couple weeks ago. the white house is going to be talking about sending 500 million new tests to the homes of americans. but that's not coming until next month. this is certainly shining a light on one thing a persistent challenge for the administration, testing and the availability of testing. now demand outpaces supply on that front. the president also we're told going to be outlining how 1,000 military members, medical professionals will be at the ready to go to hospitals across the country relieving burdened staff. and setting up new federal testing sites beginning in new york city. this is the strategy the president will lay out in the coming hours when he delivers a speech from the state dining room at the white house, trying to really give a stark warning about what's to come. but also reassure a worried
public, some four days before christmas that this is a pandemic that is out of control, certainly. but for those vaccinated and boosted, there is -- there certainly are many reasons to be thankful for in that regard. he will use this speech as another attempt to urge people to get those vaccinations here during this holiday surge, ana. >> and this new threat hits close to home as the white house just revealed, a mid-level staff member, a close contact of the president, tested positive for covid-19 monday morning. what do we know about the president's possible exposure here? >> we know the president tested negative we are told by the white house press secretary. and he will take a pcr test again tomorrow. of course he tests regularly here. this is all from a trip on friday where a staffer of the white house spent about 30 minutes or so with the president, we're told, on air force 1 after the president traveled to south carolina. and the staffer at the time tested negative.
you must test negative to be anywhere around the same room as the president. tested negative but then over theo over the weekend developed symptoms and tested positive later. in every workplace in america. everyone seems to know someone testing positive. no exception at the white house. but for now the president testing negative as of yesterday and scheduled to get another test tomorrow. >> jeff zeleny at the kwhous for us thank you. >> sure. omicron is spreading so fat that new modelling from the cdc says we will see higher case rates than previous peaks, despite higher rates of vaccination. the u.s. has also now confirmed its first known death from the omicron variant. an unvaccinated texas man with underlying health issues died after contracting the virus a second time. cnn's athena jones has more. >> we've already not seen anything like this before. >> it's not looking good. it's a perfect storm,
unfortunately of events. >> reporter: the cdc estimates the omicron variant accounts for 73% ever new covid-19 infections. a stunning leap in prevailens, less than three weeks after it was first detected in the u.s. >> i think omicron is going to be a national viral blizzard for the next three to eight weeks, i think we are going to be in a very, very difficult place. >> reporter: hospitalizations are up 35% over a month ago. the u.s. now averages nearly 140,000 new covid cases a day. and more than 1,200 people are dying each day on average. and even as early indications to suggest omicron may cause milder illness than the delta variant and be less likely to cause severe lung disease, the sheer number of cases could overwhelm already stretched hospitals. >> i think we're going to see a real challenge in the health care system over the course of the next three to eight weeks. what really is challenging is on top of that we can expect 10 to 30% of health care workers to be
infected during that time. >> doctors stressing people who have not been vaccinated are most at risk. for the vaccinated getting boosted reduces risk further. >> we just had the first omicron-related death. >> the first person confirmed to have died of omicron in the u.s. a texas man in his 50s, unvaccinated had previously been infected with covid and had underlying health conditions. still doctors say everyone should do what they can to avoid getting infected. >> it is ill advised to be cavalier and say who cares if i get infected, not only for your health and those around you but for your communal responsibility of not wanting to be a vehicle to spread it to someone else. >> reporter: while just over 61% of the country is fully vaccinated, less than 20% has gotten a booster shot. even as a new england journal of medicine study says people vaccinated more than six months ago were three times more likely to have a breakthrough case of covid than those inoculated more
recently. one potentially positive sign -- >> we have right now about 460 patients in our hospitals. that's less than 10% of our overall capacity. >> reporter: while new york is setting daily records for new covid infections, it's not yet seeing a core responding increase in hospitalizations. >> this time last year, during the second wave, we had almost 1,000 cases. this time last year. and compared to where we were back in the first wave we had 350 patients in hospitals -- 3500 patients in hospitals. >> here in new york city a big foreclosure on boosters. mayor de blasio announcing today a $100 incentive for any city resident who gets a booster shot at a city-run vaccination site. the booster bonus incentive starts today and goes through the end of the month.
ana. >> athena jones. here with us gloria borjer and dr. port h hochlt tee at baylor college of medicine. i'll start with you gloria as we await the president's speech coming up this hour. we expect -- we're two hours now into the pandemic. many people are frustrated by yet another surge. >> right. >> here at the holidays, how hard of is a new challenge author the biden administration. >> it's a very difficult challenge. first of all within majority of the american public, 54% thinks joe biden has done a good job on managing covid. and now comes omicron. and he has to give a speech that talks to two different audiences, as you pointed out earlier. he has to talk to the people who have done the right thing and who have been vaccinated and who have been boosted. and he has to say to them, you know, this isn't going to be as
bad to you. this is not going to be a lockdown. you just have to be cautious. you have to be careful. but those who are unvaccinated, those who have decided to go the other direction, he is going to say to them, be very afraid. because this is going to be a dark winter for you. this is going to be dangerous if you have no immunity to it at all. so you better get vaccinated. it's difficult to give a speech where you have to be optimistic to some people and pessimistic to other people. but he's got to make that message clear, which is, you got to have a vaccine. that's it. >> dr. peter hotez, what do you think this administration could do differently moving forward? what do you want to hear from the president? >> well, i think gloria is it absolutely right. we are two different nations and very much divided along partisan lines with what we are feeling
about covid-19. and it's a complicated mental. but here is the reality. the man who died last night here in houston was unvaccinated, previously infected. there is the buzz out there that if you're previously infected you don't need to get vaccinated. it's not true. and especially with omicron, where in south africa we have seen so many reinfections. so the bottom line is if you are unvaccinated, whether in facted or not you need to get fully vaccinated. we also need to change what it means to be fully vaccinated. because the new data coming out of imperial college london shows that if you only get two doses of the vaccine -- of either of the mrna vaccine at least for the pfizer, that it basically has no protection against symptomatic covid infections. some modest protection against serious illness. that's why you need the booster. but here is the hardest message of all the president has. and that even when you get boosted, you get a big bump in
the virus neutralizing antibodies. it will protect against hospitalization and serious illness. but within a month or two, a couple months after the booster it only protects about 30% to 40%. symptomatic infection. and that's going to be a particular problem among the health care providers who are among the first to adopt the booster. there are already a couple months out. that's where we get the big dropout? the health care workforce because of breakthrough symptomatic covid. not that they're hospitalized themselves but they're home sick with covid and dropping out of the workforce. how do you manage that? how do we keep the health system together over the next as mike ofter homes three to eight weeks as his time frame. that's going to be our biggest challenge. >> let me play for you what dr. fauci has suggested. because if there is, you know, an increase in infections among health care workers, it's what do you do then, right? and even if the health care workers are asymptomatic but test positive, maybe there
should be a change to whether they are in isolation or in quarantine for, you know, the duration that is currently ten days. could that be shortened? dr. fauci suggests maybe that's something to consider. let's listen. >> if you do have someone infected, rather than keeping them out for seven or ten days, if they are without symptoms, put an n 95 mask on them. make sure they have the proper ppe and might be able to get back to work sooner than the full length of the kwquarantine period. >> dr. hotez, is that a solution or risky. >> there is risk. it may have merit. i know mike osterhome made that suggestion as have others. that's worth considering. i proposed something different altogether, which is because of that waning immunity, if we could give the health care providers a second booster dose, meaning a fourth immunization,
that will restore that level of virus neutralizing antibody and keep them protected a short period of time. for a couple of months over the omicron surge. so that -- so that would be a very interesting use of the vaccine, because, remember, we don't have a lot of other tools. the at least one maybe two of the monoclonal antibodies is not working against the omicron variant because of the spike protein mutations. and also we're not having paxil individual. and i proposed a second booster to the health care providers to keep them in the workforce during this difficult time. >> gloria, vaccinations have become so politicized. we even heard people booing when president trump recently said he had gotten boosted. and he was among his own supporters. given the politicization here, does it help or hurt when president biden makes a speech? >> well, it's hard to say whether it's going to change anyone's mind.
you know, people who don't believe joe biden are not going to believe joe biden. but that doesn't mean the president ought not give the speech. you know, he needs to scare people straight. he needs to scare people who haven't been vaccinated and say, look, this could happen to you what happened in houston, what dr. hotez is talking about, could happen for you. the thing biden has to make clear today also, which the united states has not xcelled in getting tests to peel people and they are announcing a huge number of tests, half a billion test made available, you'll be able together them online free of charge to test at home. but this is something we should have been doing quite some time. i think regulatory issues kept that from occurring. now we have no other choice. particularly since people who had been vaccinated and boosted may not get a difficult case,
may not even know they have any kind of covid. and if they were to test themselves at home they would know. and they would be able then to stay at home, and not pass it along to other people. so it is so important that we get these tests in circulation in this country in huge quantities. i think the president is going to talk about that. and hopefully the plan will work. we just don't know. >> gloria borger, dr. hotez, thank you both. >> sure. >> the president expected to address the nation this hour. stay with us for that. meantime republican congressman scott perry says he will not meet with the house committee investigating the january 6th capitol riot. so will the committee subpoena a sitting member of congress? and enacts are back at a drawing board. they're meeting tonight to figure out what's next for biden's build back better legislation, after senator manchin tanked it. rance.
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new developments today in the investigation into the capitol insurrection. republican congressman scott perry has now declined a request to voluntarily speak with the january 6th house select committee. the pennsylvania republican is the first sitting member of congress that the panel has asked to interview. he was just chosen to be the next leader of the conservative house freedom caucus and joining us now is cnn senior legal affairs correspondent paula reid. paula, what is perry saying exactly? what's his reasoning for just denying this request? and remind us how he fits into the committee's investigation. >> what's so interesting here is this wasn't even a subpoena.
this was just a letter from his colleagues formally requesting he voluntarily cooperate with the investigation into january 6th. he was the first lawmaker to receive such a letter but he declined the request. in a tweet he suggested the committee and the investigation are illegitimate and not duly constituted under the rules of the u.s. house of represent he was. in the letter that went to perry lawmakers laid out why they wanted to talk to him. specifically about former justice department official jeffrey clark. now clark when he was at the justice department was very open to using the agency to promote the big lie. and perry actually connected trump and clark at a time when trump was really putting a lot of pressure on the justice department to find evidence that the election was stolen. now, it's not clear at this point if lawmakers will now move to subpoena their colleague. >> and the committee is facing some legal headwinds. alex jones now refusing to comply with the panel.
also now suing the committee. what more can you tell us about the lawsuits the committee is facing? >> a lot of litigation swirling this committee. we have seen over a half dozen lawsuits filed calking various aspects of the investigation. as you noted far right-wing media personality and conspiracy theorist alex jones is among the latest to file a lawsuit. he is challenging a subpoena that he has been issued by the committee. and in the suit he interestingly also reveals he intends to follow in trend that many other trump allies have followed where he will assert the fifth amendment instead of answering questions from the committee. but so far the committee required anyone who wants that to do that come in sit down listen to the question and assert the fifth amendment right where appropriate. they have not allowed anyone to send a letter and call in and say i plead the fifth. among the people who filed lawsuits related to the investigation are of course former president trump. he has sued to try to block the committee from obtaining white
house records. citing executive privilege. but twice now federal courts have ruled against him. but he is expected to appeal that case to the supreme court. likely this week. >> okay paula reid keep us posted. thank you. rindto mariotti is the host of the podcast "on topic" good to see you rindto. congressman scott perry says, no. can the committee subpoena a fellow member of congress? >> they can. it's a little bit more complicated. there is an absecure portion of the constitution called the speech or debate claus which essentially protects members of congress from, you know, criminal investigations into their legislative activities. of course this isn't a criminal investigation. this is a fact finding inquiry. he will i'm sure raise noise about that. ultimately i think he is going to have to comply, although i
suspect there will be some back and forth and potentially, you know, i could imagine litigation from him as well. >> and ultimately the committee could make a referral to the justice department if they they discover crimes along the way or believe they have a case to be made. "the new york times" is reporting that that is a possibility here, the committee is looking eye into whether crimes were in fact committed in couple of their top potential crimes at least at this point, are the potential wire fraud by republicans who raised money off the big lie, and when they knew it was untrue. also whether the former president and his allies on obstructed congress by trying to block the certification of the electoral votes. what needs to be proven to make the case on either of these? >> so for wire fraud you need to prove not only that there was a lie that was being told in order to obtain money from other
people. but also done with the intent to did he fraud, in other words, the intent to trick people out of their money in some way. in other words, as opposed to to honest belief the election was stolen, or honestly trying to do -- not to obtain the money via false pretense. on the other hand, the -- the obstructing congress, what they need to show is essentially that -- that the -- you know certainly there were some people obstructing congress, the insurrectionists who were trying -- literally threatening to kill members of congress. so the question is for some of the other people, did they know about that criminal activity and help make it succeed in some active way? or alternatively, did they have some agreement with people storming the capitol and play some role in that. and that is going to be a bit of a challenge to prove. i think that's what the committee is gathering this evidence to toorg at. >> so far, based on what the
committee has made public, do they have enough evidence? >> i don't think so far. i mean, one key word that liz cheney mentioned was inaction. in other words, she suggested, did donald trump through his action or inaction essentially provide aid to the insurrectionists? and there is no question that he through his inaction provided aid to them, because by doing nothing to stop them he -- he essentially allowed them to continue. but i don't think that would be enough to satisfy a court for purposes of criminal charges. and i think it remains to be seen whether or not he took for example, more active steps. >> committee member representative adam kinzinger suggested they are looking into whether the former president kwo or should be held criminally label. merrick garland has worked hard to keep the department from appearing political. do you think he would bring
charges against a former president? >> that's a great question. i certainly think if the charges are there can be -- in other words if there is sufficient evidence to prove guilt i think merrick garland should be krng the former president, just like any other american. i think there should be the same level of consideration. he is not above the law. but obviously it would have broader implications. that said, injury at this point it's probably premature in terms of january 6th charges based on what we've seen publicly. i haven't seen enough yet to bakt there would be charges. but if i think the former -- if i were advising the frrm president i would tell thiem to be concerned. >> renato thank you for joining us appreciate are your time. >> thank you. we are watching the white house right now. president biden will deliver remarks on the rising cases of coronavirus across the country. we will bring his remarks live as soon as it happens. but first a look at some of the other events we are watching
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any moment now president bide. will address the nation about his administration's plans to combat the latest covid surge. he is expected to offer half a billion free at home covid test kits to any american who wants one, who requests one on a website. again, we expect him to push the importance of vaccines and especially boosters. this new covid surge has put several professional sports leagues out on a timeout. the nhl deciding to pause the season until after christmas. the nfl has had to postpone more games after more players tested positive. dozens of players are currently in covid protocols. br
zblp like you say, an aire it's been man down when it comes to the players and all the different teams in the professional leagues. look at the nfl for example, more than 200 players on the covid reserve list since last week. the teams are having to change up the covid protocols quickly. the nfl is raising eyebrows because they are testing less for the virus. it's begging the question, is this the path forward for companies, people through getting through the pandemic? experts warn not so fast on that. packed stadiums, screaming fans. it seemed like the sports world was back in full swing but covid-19 and the highly contagious omicron variant proving to be teams' toughest opponent yet. again threatening schedules and forcing leagues to pivot protocols so seasons stay on track. >> we can't apply 2020 solutions to the 2021 problems we are
having. >> the nfl making a controversial call over the weekend to only test vaccinated players, coaches and staff voeing symptoms of covid-19. it's a sharp shift from the previous protocols of requiring weekly testing. >> testing is a tool. it's a tool offering certain things but it has limitations. i do think as i said you have to look at each era or phase of the pandemic as to what the value of testing is. >> league commissioner roger goodell calling it a targeted testing plan. some disagree. >> it sends a terrible message of less testing for the communities in which the teams are pillars and role models. >> under the new rules unvaccinated players must test daily. and high risk players can opt out of the rest of the season without pay. but the approach undoubtedly means asymptomatic cases will slip detection and the virus will potentially spread. >> it was an admission by the nfl that they're not going to be able to completely contain the
omicron variant. >> pass is over the middle -- >> the nfl essentially leaning on the fact that more than 94% of the players are fully vaccinated. and therefore it says likely safe from serious infection. adding in a memo omicron appears to be a very different illness from the one we first confronted in the spring of 2020. >> i think they are probably right as far as their people go. my concern is if everybody in the country makes that choice you may see a whole lot of cases and even if only a very small percentage are severe, that can stress and overwhelm an overtaxed health care system. >> the move comes days after the league was foevt forced to post poo pony three weekend games and slide dozens of players at a crucial time in the season, just before playoffs. >> he scores! >> the nhl now temporarily pausing the season over christmas. the hands on approach after at least nine teams faced surging
cases. the league already postponed all games requiring teams to cross the u.s. canadian border. as for the nba. >> we're kind of going day by day at the moment. >> so far games have been postponed there too. but the league trying to soften the blow for teams short on players because of positive cases by allowing replacement players to be added to their rosters. >> let's bring in bryan here. can the models be applied elsewhere. >> it's interesting. one of the experts i was talking to said they really can't fault the professional leagues because they are actually doing more than you would likely see in many businesses and certainly with individuals because they are having testing, even, you know, varying degrees of that. they are requiring masks inside the facilities. they are -- they all have pretty high vaccination rates. but the fact they don't live in a bubble. they have to go home to families, some cases kids, those
kids go to school. and that's what health experts are saying is that this can spread even more. it's not exactly the right approach to take, at least at this time, so that one expert saying test, test, test. of course we hope to hear more about that when the president speaks, ana. >> thank you so much brinn. democrats trying to regroup after senator manchin as devasating blow to the build back better plan. can they get the agenda back on track? and why more democrats are choosing to leave congress, ahead.
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tonight senate democrats caucus virtually. the big questions, what's next with build back better after senator manchin's decision not to support it. let's go live to the white house. the president set to speak on covid. >> i promised when i got elected i'd always give it to you straight from the shoulder, the good, the bad, the truth. so as we head into christmas weekend i want to answer your questions about the rising number of covid cases, covid-19 cases. and i want to start by acknowledging how tired, worried and frustrated i know you are. i know how you're feeling. for many of you this will be the first or even second christmas where you look across the table, there will be an empty kitchen chair there. tens of millions have gotten sick. we've all experienced upheaval in our lives. so while covid has been a tough
adversary, we've shown that we are tougher. tougher because we have the power of science and vaccines that prevent illness and save lives. and tougher because of our resolve, so that -- let me answer some questions that lay out the steps the vice-president and i are taking to prepare for the rising number of cases experts tell us we can expect in the weeks ahead. first, how concerned should you be about omicron which is now the dominant variant in this country, and it happened so quickly? the answer is straightforward. if you're not fully vaccinated, you have good reason to be concerned. you're at a high risk of getting sick. and if you get sick you're likely to spread it to others, including friends and family. the unvaccinated have a significantly higher risk of ending up in a hospital or even dying. almost everyone who has died from covid-19 in the past many
months has been unvaccinated. unvaccinated. if you're among the majority of americans who are fully vaccinated and especially if you got the booster shot, the third shot, you're much -- you have much, much less reason to worry. you have a high degree of protection against severe illness. but because omicron spreads so easily, we'll see some fully vaccinated people get covid. potentially in large numbers. there will be positive cases in every office. even here in the white house among the vaccinated -- among the vaccinated from omicron. but these cases are highly unlikely to lead to serious illness. vaccinated people who get covid may get ill. but they're protected from severe illness and death. that's why you should still remain vigilant. according to our doctors, even if you're fully vaccinated you should wear a mask when indoors in public settings.
wearing a mask provides extra protection for you and those around you. and i know some americans are wondering, if you request safely celebrate the holidays with your family and friends. and the answer is yes, you can. if you and those you base rate e -- celebrated with are vaccinated. and if you are vaccinated and follow the precautions we know well you should feel comfortable celebrating the christmas holiday as you plan to. you know, you've done the right thing. enjoy the holiday season. and thanks to the progress on vaccinations this fall we've gone from nearly 90 million adults in july who had not even started the vaccination process to fewer than 40 million today. still too many. down from 90 to 40. all these people who have not been vaccinated, you have an obligation to yourselves, to your family, and quite frankly,
i know i'll be criticized for this -- to your country. get vaccinated now. it's free. it's convenient. i promise you, it saves lives. and i honest to god believe it's your patriotic duty. another question folks are asking is, what can you do to make yourself and your family feel safer and be safer? the answer is simple. get your booster shot. wear a mask. our doctors made it clear. booster shots provide the strongest protection. unfortunately we still have tens of millions of people eligible for the booster shot but have not yet gotten it. gotten the first two shots. but they've not gotten the booster. folks, the booster shots are free and widely available. over 60 million americans, including 62% of eligible seniors our most vulnerable have gotten their booster shots. i got my booster shot as soon as they were available. and just the other day, former
president trump announced he got his booster shot. maybe one of the few things he and i agree on. people with booster shots are highly protected. join them. join us. it's been six months or more since my second shot. if it's been six months or more from your second shot for your booster you can get yours today. if you're six months or more since the second shot. another question folks are asking, is are we going back to march 2020? not this last march 2021, but march 2020 when the pandemic first hit? and that's what i keep getting asked. the answer is absolutely no, no. here are three big differences between then and now. one, number one, first one, more than 200 million americans have been fully vaccinated. and in march 2020 no one was fully vaccinated.
what that means is today as cases -- a case of covid-19 for fully vaccinated and boosted person will most likely mean no symptoms or mild ones similar to the common respiraty viruss. over 200 million americans should have the peace of mind they didn't have in march 2020. they are protected from hospitalizations and they're protected from death. second point. we're prepared today for what's coming. in march of 2020 we were not ready. today we stock piled enough gowns, masks and venle eighters to deal with the surge of hospitalizations among the unvaccinated. today we are ready. and as i'll explain in a few minutes we're going to be reinforcing our hospitals, helping them. number three. we know a lot more today than we did back in march of 2020. for example, last year we
thought the only way to keep your children safe was to close your -- close our schools. today we know more and we have more resources to keep those schools open. you can get five to 11-year-olds vaccinated. we didn't have that until last month. today we don't have to shut down schools because of a case of covid-19. now if a student tests positive other students can take the test and stay in the classroom if they are not infected rather than crossclosing the whole school or having to quarantine. we can keep k-through 12 schools open. that's exactly what we should be doing. so, folks, let me summarize. we should all be concerned about omicron. but not panicked. if you're fully vaccinated, and especially if you got your booster shot, you are highly protected. and if you're unvaccinated you're at a higher risk of getting severely ill from covid-19, getting hospitalized and even doo dying.
so the best thing to do is get fully vaccinated and get your booster shot. and, no, this is not march of 2020. 200 million people are fully we're prepared. we know more. we just have to stay focused. so that's where we stand. now, let me tell you about the additional steps i'm ordering today to take on what is coming. i know you've heard a lot of this in the news already this morning. three weeks ago i laid out a covid-19 action plan for this winter that prepared us for this moment. today we're making the plan even stronger. first, we're setting up our vaccination and booster efforts. we're stepping it up significantly. in the past two weeks, we've seen the highest vaccination rates since last spring. and we aren't as vaccinated as a country as we should be, though. that's why we have added 10,000
new vaccination sites on top of the 80,000 sites that we already had in place. and even more will open in january. know there's some parts of this country where people are very eager to get their booster, where it's harder to get an appointment. so starting this week, i'll be deploying hundreds more vaccinators and more sites to help get the booster shots in people's arms. i've ordered fema, the federal emergency management agency to stand up new pop up vaccination clinics all across the country where you can get that booster shot. we've opened -- excuse me -- we've opened fema vaccination sites in washington state and new mexico recently as cases have increased, and today i'm directing fema to stand up new sites in areas where there is a high demand. these steps are going to help us add more and more booster appointments just over the next
few weeks. also want to say a word to parents. if your children are not vaccinated, please get them vaccinated. if you're a parent understandably who waited to see how the first shots went with other kids before getting your own kid vaccinated, you can stop waiting. 6 million children in our country, ages 5 to 11 are vaccinated. get your children protected today now. for those parents out there who have a child that's too young to be vaccinated that is under the age of 5, i know this can still be a scary time. but one thing, one thing you can and must do while we await vaccines for children under 5, get yourself fully vaccinated and boosted, as well as those around you, your children, your care givers, your siblings. it's critical to mask up in public indoor places.
we know that our youngest children have only really been impacted by serious covid-19 cases but they can be further protected if they're surrounded by vaccinated people and again, to folks who are not vaccinated, you may think you're putting only yourself at risk, but it's your choice. your choice is not just a choice about you, it affects other people, you're putting other people at risk. your loved ones, your friends, neighbors, strangers you run into. and your choice can be the difference between life or death. the longer the virus is around, the more likely variants form. they may be deadlier than the ones that have come before. let me say again and again and again, please get vaccinated. it's the only responsible thing to do. those who are not vaccinated are
causing hospitals to become overrun again. i just spoke to the governor of new york. every covid-19 hospital means someone with a heart attack, cancer, or other serious illness may not get that bed and that life saving care they need in the hospital. look, let me give it to you straight again, omicron is serious, potentially deadly business nofor unvaccinated peoe want let me be clear, thanks to the prior administration and our scientific community, america is one of the first countries to get the vaccine. thanks to my administration and the hard work of americans, we let a rollout made in america among the world leaders in getting shots in arms. but uptake slowed this summer as vaccine resistance among some hardened. look, the unvaccinated are responsible for their own choices. but those choices have been
fueled by dangerous misinformation on cable tv and social media. you know, these companies and personalities are making money by peddling lies and allowing misinformation that can kill their own customers and their own supporters. it's wrong. it's immoral, i call on the purveyors of these lies and misinformation to stop it, stop it now. one of the other things that we know that has to be done is more testing because omicron spreads easily, especially among the unvaccinated. it's critically important that we know who's infected. that means we need more testing. on that score, we're now where we should be. yes, we have over 20,000 free testing sites. yes, we've used the defense production act, and spent $3 billion to greatly expand the number of at-home tests available for purchase online and at your local pharmacy, and
yes, we made sure insurance covers the pcr tests you get in the hospital or at your doctor's office. starting next month, private insurance will also cover at-home testing so you can order a test online and get reimbursed. we're providing access to free at-home tests for those who may have insurance as well, may not have insurance, i should say, as well. but it's not enough. we have to do more. we have to do better. and we will. starting this week the federal government will set up emergency testing sites in areas that need additional testing capacity. before christmas the first several of these federal testing sites will be up and running in new york city with many more to come. this free testing is going to help reduce the waiting lines, the time we have to stand there, and sometimes it's an hour or more. we're going to continue to add federal testing sites wherein
needed. so if you want an immediate test, there will be a place where you can go get it. we also need to do better with at-home testing. i'm announcing today that the federal government will purchase one-half billion, that's not million, billion with a b, additional at-home rapid tests with deliveries starting in january. we'll begin giving these tests to americans for free, and we'll have web sites where you can get them delivered to your home. we have arranged for it to be easier for you to find free covid testing site near you on google. just enter covid tests near me in the google search bar, and you can find a number of different locations nearby where you can get tested. we're going to continue to use the defense production act as we did earlier this month to make sure we're producing as many tests and as quickly as possible. the bottom line is it's a lot
better than it was. we're taking even more steps to make it easier to get tested and to get tested for free. next, we're preparing hospitals for what's coming. those 40 unvaccinated adults have a good chance of getting covid-19 and some of you will get very sick. that will mean hospitals are going to get extremely stressed, extremely stressed. both tin terms of equipment as well as personnel to care for those who get sick. that's why my administration has stockpiled and prepositioned millions of gowns, gloves, masks and ventilators, ppp, ready to send them immediately to any state that needs more. in addition, i have directed the pentagon to mobilize an additional 1,000 troops to be deployed to help staff local hospitals and expand capacity.
that's 1,000 military doctors, nurses and medics. we have already started moving military -- excuse me, medical teams. they've already landed in wisconsin and indiana this week. this is on top of 300 federal medical personnel that are now on the ground, having deployed since we learned about omicron. look, while we know staffing is the biggest need for hospitals, some may need more beds as well. we're prepared. i've directed fema to activate the national response center and begin deploying teams now to provide additional hospital beds. we'll begin to construct emergency capacities near hospitals in parking garages, in nearby buildings to be ready if needed. and the federal government is paying for all of this, period. all of it. further, fema will deploy hundreds of ambulances, and ems crews, so that if one hospital
fills up, we can transport patients to beds elsewhere. this week we'll send dozens of ambulances to new york and maine because the covid is spreading very rapidly to help transport patients. our doctors, nurses, hospital staffs have gone above and beyond during this pandemic. the strain and stress is real. i really mean it. it's real. it will have their backs, though, we have to let them know we have their backs. finally, we're making sure that covid-19 no longer closes businesses or schools. last week, the federal court reinstated my administration's vaccination or test. the vaccination or test rule for businesses with more than 100 employees, requires employers with 100 or more employees to protect their workers who are on site and indoors for the requirement that they be vaccinated or tested each week