NEW YORK - President Joe Biden announced that the federal government is sending a surge of military medical teams to New York, New Jersey, and four other states to help hospitals that are dealing with a rise in COVID cases and COVID-related staffing issues.
"To the military medical teams on the ground, thank you for all and everything you're doing," Biden said.
"We have over 300 staff out of work here right now due to COVID or issues related to COVID," said Shereef Elnahal, the president and CEO of University Hospital and a former New Jersey health commissioner.
He told FOX 5 NY that his hospital currently has a 10% staffing shortage and about 150 COVID patients.
"We are getting 23 women and men in uniform starting early next week for a period of 30 days, again, just a really critical time," Elnahal said. "We don't know exactly what the slate of skills they have are yet, how many of them are nurses or nursing assistants, pharmacists, et cetera. But no matter what they do, we will be able to use them because we are facing shortages in every corner of our hospital."
Biden also announced that in addition to the 500 million COVID tests that the government is in the process of getting, he is directing his team to secure 500 million more to meet future demand. These announcements came in response to criticism of the Biden administration over shortages and long lines for tests. The president is also reiterating his calls for Americans to get vaccinated and boosted while continuing to call this a "pandemic of the unvaccinated." He said those without shots are 17 times more likely to be hospitalized from omicron.
"If you haven't gotten vaccinated, do it," Biden said. "Personal choice impacts us all, our hospitals, our country."
The president also said he will release details soon about his plans to make high-quality masks free to all Americans.