Biden Promises to Provide 500 Million Free COVID-19 Tests to Help Tackle Omicron

President Joe Biden wants to announce 500 million free quick testing for Americans, additional help for overburdened hospitals, and a redoubling of immunization and boosting efforts as the omicron variant spreads.

Biden is unveiling dramatic revisions to his COVID-19 winter plan in a speech slated for Tuesday afternoon, his hand pushed by the advent of the fast-spreading omicron version, whose qualities are yet unknown to experts.

As relatives and friends begin to assemble, the globe faces the potential of a second consecutive holiday season with COVID-19. Scientists aren’t sure if omicron causes more serious disease, but they do know that immunization can protect people from major sickness and death. The White House has released further information on the ideas Biden will make in his speech.

Biden’s decision to acquire 500 million coronavirus quick tests and mail them free to Americans starting in January is a cornerstone of the strategy. People will purchase their tests through a new website, which will then be provided to them free of charge by US mail. It’s a significant move for Biden, who had previously proposed that many Americans buy the difficult-to-find tests on their own and then seek reimbursement from their health insurance.

Biden’s earlier strategy had been condemned as cumbersome by public health experts, who warned that the United States would face another round of testing issues at a vital moment. They cited examples from other sophisticated countries, such as the United Kingdom, where the government assures that all citizens have access to testing. Rapid tests for at-home use are far more expensive in the United States than they are in Europe, and they have proven to be frustratingly difficult to locate in stores.

The federal government will also set up new testing facilities and employ the Defense Production Act to assist in the production of further tests. This week, the first new federally funded testing facility will open in New York. The 20,000 existing testing stations will be supplemented by the new ones. Officials from the White House said they’re working with Google to make it easier for people to discover them by Googling “free COVID test near me.”

Biden is willing to deploy an additional 1,000 troops with medical capabilities to aid hospitals that are crumbling under the new COVID-19 wave. He’s also dispatching federal medical staff to Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire, and Vermont right away. Additional ventilators and protective equipment will be made available from the national stockpile, allowing hospitals to enhance their resources.

As a safety net, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will dispatch hundreds of ambulances and paramedic teams to relocate patients to open beds in neighboring hospitals if one becomes overburdened. Ambulances and paramedic teams are already on their way to New York and Maine, as well as New Hampshire, Vermont, and Arizona.

Vaccination, on the other hand, remains the most effective protection since it may prevent disease from occurring in the first place. The government will set up a number of vaccination centers and supply hundreds of people to give vaccines. Pharmacists will be able to operate across state boundaries to give a wider range of vaccinations because to new legislation.

A booster dose has been found in lab studies to give significant protection against omicron for persons who have already been completely immunized. Despite several reports of breakthrough cases, evidence shows that infected persons who have been vaccinated are substantially less likely to develop severe illness that requires hospitalization or death. Biden intends to issue a harsh warning to the unvaccinated, warning them that they are endangering their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

At Monday’s press conference, White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated that Biden will not enforce any lockdowns and will instead encourage people to be immunized — and, if they’re eligible, to receive their booster injection.

“This isn’t a speech about shutting down the country. Psaki told reporters, “This is a lecture about the benefits of vaccination.”

Biden is in the difficult position of warning the people about the risks of omicron while yet promising them that the immunizations will protect them. Officials at the White House are attempting to re-acclimate the country to the reality of an endemic virus with significantly lower stakes for those who have been vaccinated. As the number of cases rises and fatalities and serious sickness among the unvaccinated dominate the news, this has meant striking a delicate balance.

There are 40 million individuals in the United States who are vaccine-eligible yet have not been immunized. Vaccination campaigns have failed to overcome a slew of political, social, and cultural barriers. According to Psaki, the president intends to appeal to people’s survival instincts.

“Our health experts estimate that if you have not been vaccinated, you are 14 times more likely to die of COVID than if you have been vaccinated,” she stated on Monday.

According to scientists, omicron spreads faster than other coronavirus subtypes, such as delta. It has already established itself as the most common strain in the United States, accounting for roughly three-quarters of all new infections in the past week.

The White House stated late Monday that Biden had been in close touch with a staff member who subsequently tested positive with COVID-19, highlighting how ubiquitous the virus is. Aboard Friday, while flying from Orange, South Carolina, to Philadelphia, the worker spent roughly 30 minutes with the president on Air Force One. Psaki said the worker, who had been completely vaccinated and boosted, had tested positive earlier Monday.

Biden has tested negative twice since Sunday, according to Psaki, and will test again on Wednesday. Psaki said Biden didn’t need to be quarantined and would go about his business as usual, citing advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

From Wednesday to Saturday, approximately 42,600 persons in New York City tested positive, compared to less than 35,800 for the whole month of November. Since testing became publicly available, the city has never had so many people test positive in such a short period of time.

The most recent epidemic exemplifies the global difficulties in containing the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday, the Dutch government imposed a strict statewide curfew to combat rapidly spreading illnesses, while many European governments have chosen a less drastic approach. Officials have opted not to impose more limitations, at least for the time being, according to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Most British visitors are forbidden from entering France and Germany, and the Paris administration has banned public concerts and fireworks displays during New Year’s celebrations.

Ireland has placed an 8 p.m. curfew on pubs and clubs, and attendance at indoor and outdoor activities has been limited, while Greece will have 10,000 police officers on duty during the holidays to conduct COVID-19 pass checks.

The national average of new cases in Spain is now more than twice what it was a year ago. In neighboring Portugal, most non-essential employees are being told to work from home for a week in January.

On Monday, stock markets in Asia, Europe, and the United States plummeted on fears that the illnesses will stifle global economic development and exacerbate global supply chain problems.

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