WASHINGTON - U.S. President Joe Biden sympathized with coronavirus-weary Americans Thursday while ramping up the government's effort to combat the surge of the omicron variant across the country.
"I know we're all frustrated as we begin the new year," Biden said in a short White House speech. "It's been a long road, but we're going to get through this."
In his latest effort to fight the highly transmissible omicron variant, Biden said the government would by next week start sending free face masks to all Americans and now plans to buy 500 million more COVID-19 test kits, on top of the half-billion he previously announced.
Biden said that by next week, anyone in the U.S. who wants free test kits will be able to order them online. In the U.S., 15 million COVID-19 tests are now being conducted daily, and there are 20,000 free testing sites around the country.
People wait in line for a COVID-19 test at a mobile testing site in Paramount, California, Jan. 12, 2022.
In addition, Biden said the military is deploying a total of 120 physicians, nurses and other medical personnel to hospitals in six of the 50 U.S. states where health care workers have been particularly overwhelmed by new coronavirus cases. It is the beginning of an eventual deployment of 1,000 military health care workers.
He identified the states as New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island in the eastern part of the country, Ohio and Michigan in the Midwest, and New Mexico in the southwest region of the U.S.
Since late November, the U.S. already has dispatched more than 800 military and other federal emergency personnel to 24 states, tribes and territories, according to the White House. That includes more than 350 military doctors, nurses and medics helping staff hospitals.
Biden said most Americans are "safe" from serious illness from the coronavirus because they have been fully vaccinated. But he acknowledged that 'the unvaccinated are dying." He again implored the estimated 40 million unvaccinated people to get inoculated.
In all, more than 208 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, and 77 million of those have also had booster shots, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But the U.S. leads the world with more than 840,000 coronavirus deaths, and another 1,800 are dying daily. Recently, an additional 780,000 coronavirus cases were being recorded each day.