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The coronavirus might not be the worst of it
The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Biden presses Congress for new covid funding, gets second booster shot

He unveils ‘one-stop’ website to get access to free coronavirus vaccines, treatments

President Biden received his second coronavirus booster shot, his fourth in total on March 30. (Video: The Washington Post)
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Assuring Americans that “covid-19 no longer controls our lives,” President Biden on Wednesday announced the launch of covid.gov, a “one-stop shop” to find vaccines, tests, treatments and masks, while again urging Congress to pass a stalled funding package to support the nation’s virus response.

Biden also received his second booster shot on camera, as the White House seeks to encourage more Americans to get maximally protected before a possible virus surge. “It didn’t hurt a bit,” the president told reporters.

The new website — which consolidates efforts launched earlier in the pandemic, such as covidtests.gov and vaccines.gov — also includes information on local virus spread, guidance on travel rules and restrictions, and a new tool to help Americans locate places to receive immediate antiviral treatments if they have covid.

The president spent much of his speech appealing to Congress to move forward on funding the nation’s coronavirus response, warning that “the consequences of congressional inaction” had already meant delayed or canceled orders for vaccines, antiviral medicines and other resources.

“Congress, we need to secure additional supply now,” Biden said, reiterating the White House’s appeal for at least $22 billion in new pandemic funding. “Now. We can’t wait until we find ourselves in the midst of another surge to act. It’ll be too late.”

But Senate Republicans have balked at setting aside additional money, saying they want a full accounting of earlier spending, and House Democrats subsequently rejected a plan to repurpose money already pledged to states.

While federal regulators on Tuesday authorized a fourth shot of vaccine for Americans 50 and older, U.S. officials have said they do not have enough funding to place advance orders for additional vaccine doses to cover all Americans, unless Congress passes the stalled package.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) have been negotiating a compromise funding package that could be announced this week, administration and congressional aides have said.

Democrats echoed Biden’s urgency.

“If Congress does not act swiftly, we risk losing valuable tools that will have allowed us to get beyond the crisis,” House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) said as he chaired a House Oversight panel on the administration’s coronavirus response. “Losing these tools will increase the risk of the crisis returning.”

The president’s speech came as U.S. coronavirus infections and hospitalizations have plunged from the records set in January, driven by the fast-moving omicron variant. But public health experts are bracing for a potential rebound fueled by BA.2, an omicron subvariant that has spurred a surge of cases in Europe and already accounts for more than half of new cases in the United States, according to federal data. Polls have shown that many Americans downplay covid as a priority, with only one-third of voters in a Pew Research survey this month saying the virus is a key issue that will affect their votes in this year’s midterm elections.

Uptake of booster shots has also lagged behind White House goals, even after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that Americans get a first booster to bolster their protection, citing evidence that immunity wanes several months after receiving a prior shot or being infected. About one-third of Americans over age 65 and more than half of all adults have yet to receive their first booster shot, according to federal data.