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White House looks to next phase of pandemic with new COVID-19 response plan

The administration's 96-page plan outlines ways to keep serious illnesses in check and prepare for new potential variants.

NORFOLK, Va. — A new COVID-19 response plan from the White House signals the United States is moving into the next era in the pandemic two years after it began.

It comes as hospitalizations are dropping and 215 million Americans are fully vaccinated.

Just last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance on indoor masking, saying most Americans are safe going without a mask in indoor settings, including in schools.

"Thanks to the progress we have made this past year, COVID-19 need no longer control our lives," said President Joe Biden during his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

The administration's newly-released plan outlines ways to keep serious illnesses in check and prepare for new potential variants.

"I cannot promise a new variant won’t come, but I can promise you we’ll do everything in our power to be ready if it does," Biden said.

The first part of the plan calls for making more free rapid tests available online starting next week, as well as setting up pharmacy clinics that will hand out free antiviral pills to people who test positive.

"To provide individuals access to testing and treatment for free all in one stop. Hundreds of one-stop sites will open across the country this month," said Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator.

The second major part of the plan is preparing for potential future variants by mass-producing one billion doses of vaccine each year.

That way, a new formula can be delivered within 100 days if there is an aggressive new variant.

If they can secure funding, the plan will also include new facilities around the country for people dealing with long COVID.

Long COVID is the post-COVID syndrome that can include shortness of breath, brain fog, fatigue or other conditions.

The plan also includes creating a new website where people can see COVID-19 risk levels in their community and specific guidance based on that risk.

It will also help you locate vaccination sites or find free masks.

Two years ago, the country had limited resources to deal with the virus.

Now, the Biden administration said this plan is centered on having enough tools to let Americans safely return to normal activities while still living with COVID-19.

With the new guidance and a growing number of resources to fight the virus, how can you calculate your own risk?

Pediatrician Dr. Elizabeth Broderick said if you're older than 65 and have underlying health conditions, stick with wearing a mask inside crowded public spaces.

If you're young, healthy and vaccinated, but live with people who aren't vaccinated or have underlying conditions, you should also hold on to your mask.

If you live alone, are vaccinated and boosted, she said you can skip wearing the mask indoors.

"I don't think we have conquered it. I think that we are controlling it and the goal is to control it more and more," said Broderick.

While we're past the peak of Omicron and COVID-19 trends are improving across the country, doctors say we should stay on alert for any new variants.

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