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Arkansas’s Republican governor thanked President Joe Biden for depoliticizing the federal COVID-19 response

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks at a news conference at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015.

AP Photo/Danny Johnston

  • Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas thanked President Biden during a Monday conference call.
  • The GOP leader applauded the president’s efforts to “depoliticize” the response to COVID-19.
  • On the call, Biden addressed governors’ concerns about rapid testing shortages in hard-hit states.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas reached across the symbolic aisle on Monday to thank President Joe Biden for his efforts to “depoliticize” the country’s COVID-19 response amid the raging Omicron variant.

The Republican leader made the comments during a conference call held by the Biden administration with the governors of several states to discuss the national response to the worrisome Omicron variant, which has sparked a spike in cases across the country in recent days and prompted testing shortages and delays.

“I want to thank all of the White House team for being such great support to the governors,” Hutchinson said during his opening remarks, according to The Hill. “And I want to thank [you], Mr. President, [for] your address to the nation last week. Thank you for your comments designed to depoliticize our COVID response. I think that was helpful.”

Last week, Biden outlined additional steps his administration is taking to fight the Omicron variant in a national address. In addition to offering a “stark warning” to the unvaccinated, Biden also offered a rare point of praise to his predecessor, former President Donald Trump. 

“Thanks to the prior administration and our scientific community, America is one of the first countries to get the vaccine,” Biden said during his speech from the White House last Tuesday. “And thanks to my administration and the hard work of Americans, we led a rollout that made America among the world leaders in getting shots in arms.”

During the speech, Biden also applauded Trump’s announcement that he’d received a booster shot. 

On Monday’s conference call, Biden and his White House COVID-19 response team attempted to ease worried governors who decried long testing lines and rapid test shortages in several states where Omicron has exploded. 

After thanking the president for his previous comments about increasing the supply chain on rapid COVID-19 tests, Hutchinson, who serves as chair of the National Governors Association, also warned federal officials that the government’s plan to buy and distribute 500 million free rapid tests could impede states’ attempts to boost supply on an individual level.

“Make sure that we do not let federal solutions stand in the way of state solutions,” Hutchinson said, according to Politico.

On the call, Biden discussed his administration’s efforts to improve testing availability by highlighting the proposed purchase of 500 million tests, as well as an additional plan that will require private insurers to reimburse at-home test purchases.

The meeting came as the US averages more than 200,000 cases per day, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a matter of weeks during December, the Omicron variant has prompted the nation’s largest surge in cases since last winter’s peak. 

Biden ended Monday’s call with a note of positivity, telling the governors that Omicron is a source of concern, but not cause for panic, and assured listeners that the federal government is equipped to help states deal with surges. 

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