ABC exclusive: Biden on COVID-19 vaccination rate in US l ABC News 346,168 views • Dec 23, 2021 • President Joe Biden sat down with ABC News’ David Muir for an exclusive interview and addressed the nation’s vaccination rate when compared to the same time last year.
President Biden Joins the COVID-19 Response Team’s Call with the National Governors Association 14 waiting • Scheduled for Dec 28, 2021 • President Biden Joins the White House COVID-19 Response Team’s Regular Call with the National Governors Association to Discuss his Administration’s Response to the Omicron Variant and to Hear from the Governors on the Needs in Their States
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is pressing the White House to further accelerate production of rapid Covid-19 tests, telling President Joe Biden on Monday that testing availability has become “a real challenge” amid the Omicron-fueled surge in cases.
“The need is great to do more in terms of the rapid tests and the availability of [them],” he said, adding that rapid tests are particularly critical to ensuring children can safely attend school in person.
Speaking with Biden at the outset of a call between governors and the White House Covid-19 response team, Hutchinson, a Republican who is currently chair of the National Governors Association, praised the federal government’s coordination with governors on test manufacturing.
But he also cautioned that a new plan to buy and distribute 500 million free rapid tests could interfere with state-level efforts already underway to boost supply.
“Make sure that we do not let federal solutions stand in the way of state solutions,” Hutchinson said, calling the initiative “great, but obviously that drives up the supply chain for the solutions we might offer as governor.”
Biden in his opening remarks touted his administration’s work to boost testing availability and tamp down the surge, pointing to the planned 500 million-test purchase and a separate initiative that will soon require private insurers to reimburse the cost of at-home tests.
A White House official later emphasized that the federal government's test purchases would come from a combination of new manufacturers and additional production capacity so as to "minimize disruption of existing production capacity of these tests, supply to retail or existing manufacturers' commitments states or organizations."
Biden, during his talk with the governors, acknowledged the shortages that hit several states ahead of the holidays, referencing "long lines" seen around the country and conceding that he had not done enough to prepare for the rising demand.
“It’s clearly not enough — if we’d have known, we would’ve gone harder, quicker,” Biden said. “We have to do better and we will.”
The meeting with governors came after a week that is expected to drive Covid-19 case counts sharply upward, fueled by the more transmissible Omicron variant and increased holiday travel.
The Biden administration formally supports extending operations of the International Space Station through the end of the decade, an announcement that is neither surprising nor addresses how to get all the station’s partners, notably Russia, to agree on the station’s future.
In a statement published on NASA’s ISS blog Dec. 31, NASA said the White House agreed to extend operations of the ISS through 2030. Federal law, last revised in 2015 with the enactment of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, made it U.S. policy to operate the station through at least 2024.
“I’m pleased that the Biden-Harris Administration has committed to continuing station operations through 2030,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in the statement. “The United States’ continued participation on the ISS will enhance innovation and competitiveness, as well as advance the research and technology necessary to send the first woman and first person of color to the moon under NASA’s Artemis program and pave the way for sending the first humans to Mars.”
While the form and the timing of the announcement — a blog post rather than a formal press release, issued on New Year’s Eve — was a surprise, the decision to extend the life of the ISS was not. NASA had made clear its long-term plan for the station was to operate it through the end of the decade, providing enough time for commercial stations to enter service in the late 2020s and enable a smooth transition from the ISS to those commercial facilities.
There have been several efforts in the last few years to formally extend the authorization of ISS operations in federal law from 2024 to 2028 or 2030. That included an effort led by Nelson in his final days in the Senate in 2018 to pass a commercial space policy bill with that extension. That bill won approval in the Senate by unanimous consent in December 2018 but failed to get the two-third majority needed to pass the House via a legislative procedure known as suspension of the rules.
The White House’s decision is alone not sufficient to continue ISS operations through the end of the decade. NASA said it would work with the station’s partners — Canada, Europe, Japan and Russia — “to enable continuation of the groundbreaking research being conducted in this unique orbiting laboratory through the rest of this decade.”
One partner has already signaled its willingness to continue the ISS. “I welcome this announcement & will submit a proposal to Member States for @esa to continue until 2030, as well,” tweeted Josef Aschbacher, director general of the European Space Agency, shortly after NASA published its statement.
A bigger challenge, though, will be keeping Russia in the ISS partnership. Russian officials have expressed doubts about both the technical ability of the ISS to operate through the end of the decade given problems with the Russian segment of the station as well as a desire to develop a Russian national space station.