Biden to Announce 500M Free COVID Tests

They're to be delivered by mail to Americans who request them: officials
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 21, 2021 6:42 AM CST
Biden to Announce 500M Free COVID Tests
President Joe Biden gestures as he board Air Force One en route to South Carolina State University's 2021 Fall Commencement Ceremony, Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.   (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

(Newser) – President Biden will reportedly announce the purchase of half a billion at-home rapid COVID-19 tests, which are to be delivered for free to Americans who request them, in a nationwide speech Tuesday amid soaring cases of the omicron variant. An administration official said Americans will be able to request tests, to be delivered by mail, through a newly created website, per USA Today. The administration is still deciding what the household limit on tests will be, per CNN. The CDC has recommended the use of rapid at-home COVID-19 tests ahead of holiday gatherings, but such tests have been in short supply in some parts of the country, with Dr. Anthony Fauci saying Monday that even he had difficulty locating any, per ABC News.

On Dec. 2, Biden announced that health insurance companies would be required to cover the costs of at-home COVID-19 tests after mid-January. But "we always feel we need to be doing more and that's what the president will talk about tomorrow," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday, per USA Today. "Our objective is to make tests accessible and free for Americans." Biden—who last addressed the nation on the highly transmissible variant on Dec. 2, just a day after it was confirmed in the US—will also announce plans to send 1,000 military medical personnel to assist overwhelmed hospitals. Six emergency response teams will be directed to Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire, and Vermont, the administration official said.

Finally, Biden is expected to warn the tens of millions of Americans who are still unvaccinated that they are at high risk of getting sick and may end up in a hospital. On the other hand, he will assure vaccinated Americans, especially those who've received a booster shot, that they have a high degree of protection against severe illness, per CNN. "The President will tell the American people if they're vaccinated and follow the precautions we all know well, especially masking while traveling, they should feel comfortable celebrating Christmas and the holidays as they planned," a senior administration official told the outlet. (Omicron, detected in 39 states, accounted for 73% of new cases across the country last week, up 13% over the previous week.)

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