(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

‘We need to be ready’ — Biden unveils COVID-19 plan as Omicron arrives ahead of winter

President Biden said Thursday that his plan for COVID-19 ‘pulls no punches.’

Warning that COVID-19 caseloads are poised to climb this winter, President Biden said Thursday that “we need to be ready” as he announced his plan for limiting the spread of infection.

Adding urgency to his efforts is the arrival of the Omicron variant, which was first reported in South Africa last week. Although scientists are still studying the variant, the World Health Organization has warned that the risk of new global outbreaks is “very high.”

Biden said public health officials believe current vaccines still provide protection against the mutated version of the coronavirus.

“If you’re worried about the Omicron variant, the best thing to do is get fully vaccinated, and then get your booster shot when you’re eligible,” he said. “We don’t yet believe that additional measures will be needed.”

Under Biden’s new plan, pharmacies will start reaching out to an estimated 100 million Americans who are eligible for booster shots but have not yet received them.

His administration will also require insurance companies to reimburse people for the purchase of home tests. In addition, 50 million home tests are slated for distribution to community health centers and rural clinics, where people without insurance can access them for free.

Biden said he hopes the fight against the coronavirus will “unite us.”

“I know COVID-19 has been very divisive in this country,” he said. “It’s become a political issue, which is a sad, sad commentary. It shouldn’t be, but it has been.”

As a reminder of the political turmoil, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel swiftly criticized Biden after he finished speaking.

“The White House has lost all credibility and trust from the American people,” she said in a statement. “More mandates, restrictions, and fearmongering will not offset the empty words and broken promises from Biden’s failed administration.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.