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‘We’re not out of the woods yet’: Biden administration to spend $1.6 billion for COVID-19 vaccination and testing efforts

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The Biden administration announced Thursday it is directing $1.6 billion for COVID-19 testing in high-risk settings, such as prisons or homeless shelters.

The administration also announced it would send $100 million to rural communities to vaccinate and educate Americans about COVID-19. The funding will provide roughly 2,000 health clinics with resources to vaccinate people.

“Whether you are vaccinated or not, please know, we, together, are not out of the woods yet,” Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. “We are yet at another pivotal moment in this pandemic, with cases rising again and some hospitals reaching their capacity in some areas.”

Health experts expressed serious concern about the strength of the delta variant during a White House COVID-19 response briefing.

“It is one of the most infectious respiratory viruses we know of, and that I have seen in my 20-year career,” Walensky said.

Nearly 162 million Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. However, there is a growing concern among health officials about the spread of the virus in communities with lower vaccination rates.

Officials noted that three states account for 40% of COVID-19 cases nationwide. Florida specifically has 1 in 5 cases.

Health care workers in Florida expressed concern to that their co-workers are refusing to get vaccinated, despite seeing ICUs filling up again similar to the way they did during the height of the pandemic.

Members of the COVID-19 Task Force also addressed questions about masking requirements based on the new infection rates.

Walensky stated the CDC wouldn’t change the guidelines at this time and noted vaccinated individuals still have significant protection against the virus without a mask. They did encourage individuals and local leaders to make regulations based on their specific vaccination rates.

Dr. Anthony Fauci addressed concerns that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is not as effective against the delta variant. He said that “there is no need at this time” for those vaccinated with that shot to get a second dose.

Another hot button issue is rules for children as they head back to school. New York City and Chicago schools will require everyone to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

Most children that get infected have mild symptoms, if any, experts say. However, some children do experience long-haul effects.

Stephanie Ulrich’s 14-month-old son Wyatt hasn’t been himself since his diagnosis in January. The Mississippi mother has two other children and wrote a letter to the Biloxi school district asking for strict mask mandates.

“Requiring my child to go to in-person learning with no mask mandate in place would not only be negligent, but it could cost my children their lives,” she wrote.

The district told her they would not offer distance learning for elementary school students, but they would for middle and high school-aged kids.

Ulrich said all three of her sons were born premature, and she will teach her children at home this year.

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