WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced the launch of a “one-stop shop” website for information on COVID-19 and where to get tests, vaccines and treatment for the virus, while calling on Congress to provide more funding to combat the pandemic.
“Because of the strategy we executed over the past year on vaccinations, testing, treatments, and more, we’re now in a new moment in this pandemic,” Biden said at the White House. “It does not mean that COVID-19 is over. It means that COVID-19 no longer controls our lives.”
After announcing the new website, COVID.gov, Biden received his second vaccine booster shot. A day earlier, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Americans aged 50 and older and those with compromised immune systems get an additional shot at least four months after their initial boosters.
The website shows how prevalent the virus is in each county and provides information on where to find tests, vaccines, masks and treatment.
As of Wednesday, Spokane County had a low level of community transmission while Kootenai County had a medium level, according to the website, “because the levels of COVID-19 hospitalizations, cases, and patients in hospital beds are starting to strain the local health system.”
While Biden touted the progress his administration has made against the pandemic – nearly all the nation’s schools are open and vaccines are widely available – he warned another surge in infections could set the country back without adequate funding for treatment.
A dispute over how to pay for $15.6 billion in pandemic aid requested by the White House forced Democratic leaders to strip the money from a government funding bill passed March 10.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, is negotiating with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on a standalone bill to provide the funds the administration says it needs for vaccines, antiviral drugs and other essential tools to control the pandemic.
“Now, just as we’ve reached the critical turning point in this fight, Congress has to provide the funding America needs to continue to fight COVID-19,” Biden said.
“We’re already seeing the consequences of congressional inaction.”
The administration has had to cancel planned orders of monoclonal antibodies, used to treat serious cases of COVID-19, and reduce the supply to states due to limited funding, Biden said.
“This isn’t partisan; it’s medicine,” Biden added. “Without more funding, we’ll start to run out of them by the end of May.”
Speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called on her colleagues to pass that funding bill and additional aid for restaurants and other small businesses whose bottom lines have suffered during the pandemic.
“We don’t know when the next variant might come or how bad it could be,” said Murray, who chairs the Senate Health Committee. “We don’t want to end up in the same position as before where we didn’t have enough tests, vaccines, or therapeutics.”
Without more funding, Biden said, the government will not be able to sustain its current testing capacity beyond June. At least 10 Republican senators would need to vote for a funding bill, along with all 50 Democrats, to overcome a filibuster.