PHOENIX — The White House is sending federal medical personnel to Arizona to help fight COVID-19.
According to an announcement Tuesday morning, six emergency response teams are immediately deploying to Arizona, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
Each team is said to be comprised of more than 100 paramedics and clinical workers, and is "on top of the 300 federal medical personnel that we have deployed since we learned about Omicron," the White House said.
“This will allow us to get those patients to a more appropriate location to be able to do this,” Dr. Michael White, the Chief Clinical Officer with Valleywise Health said. “Utilize this extra personnel and have the personnel we have dedicated back to their own department to service additional patients and the volumes we’re seeing in the emergency room.”
Many of Arizona’s hospitals are overwhelmed by COVID-19, especially rural hospitals, where the shortage of beds, staffing and equipment like ventilators are tracked by the Arizona Department of Health Services daily.
“Make no mistake, they have every reason to be concerned as we are because this is a first pandemic in 102 years. We’re struggling and we’re doing everything we can to mobilize the resources,” said Dr. Richard Carmona. Dr. Carmona is the former U.S. Surgeon General who is advising Arizona on its COVID-19 response.
Along with the emergency response teams, the Biden Administration is reopening the strategic national stockpile. If states run low, supplies of PPE and ventilators will be made available.
COVID-19 testing sites have been established in cities like Tempe, Mesa and Avondale. Soon the Federal government will open COVID-19 testing sites across the state.
The move is among several steps the Biden administration is taking to battle the virus, increase support for hospitals and expand the availability of vaccines to confront a winter surge of coronavirus cases driven by the fast-spreading omicron variant.
President Joe Biden also plans to deliver 500 million free COVID-19 tests to Americans.
Biden stressed the importance of getting vaccinated to protect from a wave of infections as Christmas approaches in a Tuesday speech.
The world is facing a second straight holiday season with COVID-19. Scientists know vaccination should offer strong protections against severe illness and death.
Biden's top medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says the Democratic president will issue “a stark warning of what the winter will look like” for unvaccinated Americans.
Meanwhile, Omicron has raced ahead of other variants and is now the dominant version of the coronavirus in the U.S.
Governor Doug Ducey said the state is prepared to provide hospitals with more resources if needed, and authorized $35.2 million to help hospitals with staffing and provide more bed space as well as extra dialysis chairs.
Earlier this month, state health officials confirmed that they filed a request for federal support for staff in seven Arizona hospitals. The requests made on Dec. 4 asked for 133 staff members for seven hospitals in Yuma, Cochise, and Mohave counties.