WASHINGTON – The Biden administration has offered to send more federal assistance to governors, including deploying "surge teams" of experts, as states grapple with a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases driven by the highly contagious delta variant.
Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 response team coordinator, said the administration would provide CDC epidemiologists, case investigators, mobile vaccination clinics and equipment to states where hospitals are at capacity and medical staff are overstretched, according to a letter Zients sent to governors July 29 that was obtained by USA TODAY. FEMA funding to support contracting for medical personnel is also available, the letter read.
“Our COVID-19 Surge Response Teams are available to augment your state’s pandemic response and tailor federal resources to your needs,” Zients wrote. “Federal assistance can include helping you with vaccine access and uptake, testing, lifesaving therapeutics, and hospital capacity.”
Zients' letter follows the creation of the surge teams in July.
After missing his July 4 goal of inoculating 70% of U.S. adults with at least one dose, Biden announced the creation of "surge teams" composed of experts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies across the government. Last week, the president said the White House had "made it clear to every governor" that federal resources were available to them, including the use of the teams.
The administration reached its goal of at least 70% of adults receiving their first shot on Monday, four weeks after the president's target, according to the latest CDC data. Zients told reporters in a briefing that while 165 million people have been fully vaccinated, 90 million eligible Americans remain unvaccinated.
"We need them to do their part, roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated," he said.
As of Saturday, the CDC reported a seven-day moving average of 72,000 daily new COVID-19 cases, a 44% increase from the previous seven-day average, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters. The seven-day average of hospital admissions jumped 41% while COVID-19 deaths increased to 300 a day, a 25% increase over the previous seven-day period, she added.
"While we desperately want to be done with this pandemic, COVID-19 is clearly not done with us. And so our battle must last a little longer," she said.
The U.S. has had more than 35 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 613,400 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: White House offers COVID 'surge teams' as delta variant cases climb