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President Joe Biden Announces New COVID-19 Initiative As States Battle Uptick In Cases, Hospitalizations

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- COVID-19 cases continue to surge throughout the United States, prompting the White House to take action. President Joe Biden revealed a new plan Tuesday afternoon including.

It includes:

  • Stepping up vaccination and booster efforts by adding vaccination sites
  • Establishing more COVID-19 testing sites
  • Biden says the military is prepared to be deployed to areas in need
  • FEMA is employing teams to set up emergency hospital beds as needed
  • In January, home test kits will begin being shipped to those who want them

Biden also had a clear message for those who remain unvaccinated.

The president's help can't come soon enough for Delaware, where hospitals are full and some are over capacity. In an effort to ease the immediate burden, Gov. John Carney announced Tuesday that all non-emergency surgeries at hospitals will be postponed.

"Our ability to continue to provide care is threatened," Sharon Kurfuerst, with ChristianaCare, said.

Hospitals in Delaware are reaching a new crisis level with beds being filled with COVID patients and people needing delayed medical care. Carney announced all elective surgeries in the state are being postponed.

Christiana Hospital is frequently running at 115% capacity.

"There are patients receiving care in hallways because that is the only place we have to put them," Kurfuerst said.

Overburdened hospitals will be getting new federal help the plan unveiled Tuesday by Biden and applauded by local hospital officials.

"I'm happy to see the White House is taking affirmative steps to help us continue to deal with the pandemic," Main Line Health's Lawrence Livorese said.

Livornese, with Main Line Health, says the new federal support comes at a critical time. Daily hospitalizations in Montgomery County are up 43% over the last two weeks.

"I think regionally, we're on the brink. We are clearly very stressed in terms of increasing numbers," Livornese said. "I hope they help reinforce our supply chain and make sure we have the medications and testing equipment that we need."

In addition to FEMA help for hospitals, Livornese says the half a billion new rapid tests from the administration will be most significant.

"People have infections don't realize it and are walking around infecting other individuals," Livorese said.

Hoping to avoid that, again more long lines of people are waiting to get free rapid tests in Philadelphia.

"I can get tested before Christmas and see family and be safe and everything," Alan Chestnut said.

In New Jersey, the first drive-up COVID testing site to be operational this winter opened in Gloucester County.

"We will identify cases more rapidly and by doing that those individuals will be able to isolate themselves and not spread it to the next person," Livornese said.

Vaccinations are another key component of the new Biden initiative with more pop-up clinics being planned.

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