Biden jokes Fauci is actual president as he shares COVID ‘winter plan'


President Joe Biden drew nervous laughter Thursday by joking that Dr. Anthony Fauci actually is the president before announcing tighter COVID-19 travel rules amid fears of the Omicron variant of the virus.

“I’ve seen more of Dr. Fauci than I have my wife. We kid each other. But — hey look, who’s president? Fauci,” Biden said while announcing his “winter plan” for the pandemic at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is Biden’s chief medical adviser and a divisive figure among Republicans.

“Dr. Fauci as president: That’s not a joke, that’s a nightmare to so many Americans,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), told Fox News shortly after Biden’s remarks. “I mean, when did Dr. Fauci ever put his name on a ballot and run for office and get elected by we, the people? But yet, he has complete authority.”

Trump White House aides faulted Fauci for encouraging the public not to wear face masks early in the pandemic, while Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have requested the doc be investigated for allegedly lying to Congress about his agency’s funding of gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. US spy agencies say it’s “plausible” COVID-19 leaked from that lab.

Anthony Fauci, Coronavirus, joe biden, white house

President Joe Biden delivers remarks after receiving a briefing from his COVID Response Team and NIH health officials in Bethesda, Maryland on Dec. 2, 2021.

Oliver Contreras/Sipa USA

Biden announced new, but less strict than feared, international travel rules that require air passengers to the US will have to test negative within one day of their flight, rather than within three days.

He also announced plans to mandate that health insurance companies cover the cost of at-home coronavirus rapid tests that typically cost more than $20 at retailers such as CVS Pharmacy.

Biden additionally urged Americans to get children aged five and up vaccinated and to get adult COVID-19 booster shots to beat back an anticipated cold-weather increase in cases.

Anthony Fauci, Coronavirus, joe biden, white house

President Joe Biden joked that Dr. Anthony Fauci actually is the president.

Stefani Reynolds/CNP /MediaPunch

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 reached the US this week after being first detected by South African scientists. Its high number of mutations mean it may be more contagious.

According to CDC data, 82.8 percent of US adults have had at least one vaccine shot, and 74.8 percent of all Americans five and older have had at least one shot.

“As I explained on Monday, this new variant is cause for concern but not panic,” Biden said.

“We have the best tools, the best vaccines in the world, the best medicine and the best scientists in the world. We are going to fight this variant with science and speed, nnot chaos and confusion.”

The president added: “We don’t yet believe that additional measures will be needed. But so that we’re prepared if needed, my team is already working with officials at Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to develop contingency plans for other vaccines or boosters.”

Biden urged vaccinated people to get booster shots while noting that “experts say that COVID-19 cases are going to continue to rise in the weeks ahead and this winter. So we need to be ready.”

Biden’s team had considered draconian steps, including forcing US citizens to do seven days of mandatory self-quarantine after returning from abroad and requiring them to test negative three to five days after arrival under threat of legal punishment, according to the Washington Post.

Anthony Fauci, Coronavirus, joe biden, white house

President Joe Biden announced tighter COVID-19 travel rules amid fears of the Omicron variant.

Oliver Contreras/Sipa USA

A senior administration official implied Wednesday night that they doubted such aggressive measures could be implemented effectively — after the possible steps sparked panic among Americans who travel for work or vacation.

“If any additional measures are recommended, if additional measures can be implemented well and are effective, we won’t hesitate to take them but we’re not taking them today,” she said.

The new international travel rules will continue to allow air passengers to choose between more accurate PCR tests and less accurate rapid tests. The rule will be enforced by airlines and non-compliant passengers will be prevented from boarding flights.

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