PROVIDENCE, RI -- Today, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued the following statement:

“Everyone wants to be done with the pandemic, but this virus isn’t done with us.  The highly transmissible omicron variant is rapidly spreading around the globe and threatening to reverse the hard-fought progress we’ve made.

“A surge in cases is inevitable, but there is also plenty of reason for hope and optimism.  We are going to get through this.  I urge you to be COVID-safe and take proper precautions to protect yourself and others.

“Every American has access to lifesaving vaccines and we continue making advances with new antivirals and treatments.

“I wish President Biden had announced free tests for every American sooner, but today’s action plan to provide more support for hospitals, more free testing, and more vaccines for people who still need a shot or booster is welcome news.

“I support the mobilization of 1,000 military doctors, nurses, and medics to staff local hospitals and thank these brave men and women for their dedicated, life-saving service.  The president is also sending COVID-response teams to hotspots to help build more field hospital beds, as well as ambulances and EMS personnel to help transport patients to open beds.  FEMA is also pre-positioning supplies such as masks and ventilators from the Strategic National Stockpile so hospitals that run low can quickly access them if need be.

“I support these actions and urge the President to continue to be proactive.  The system needs to be built for surges.  If we are over-prepared and states don’t need help, excess tests and supplies can be redirected to areas that do need them.  But the current state of testing is entirely unacceptable.  Tests are an important tool to combat COVID-19 and they should be free and widely available.  It’s good news that the Administration is purchasing 500 million coronavirus rapid tests and will start shipping them free of charge to all Americans who need and request them.  I will continue closely monitoring the situation and ensuring the system works and people are getting the tests they need.

“Free and frequent testing is one of the best tools we have to combat COVID-19 and the federal government will establish new testing sites and use the Defense Production Act to help manufacture more tests.  But the federal government can’t do this alone and state and local governments have a responsibility to step up and put COVID-19 funding to work combating COVID-19 now.  I worked hard to deliver federal dollars and that money needs to be responsibly deployed to areas of greatest need.

“I will continue working to ensure Rhode Islanders have everything they need to protect themselves and their loved ones.  We’re all in this together and we’ll get through it by working together and looking out for one another.”