The White House announced it would take new measures to battle an impending wave of COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant, a highly transmissible strain that’s spreading quickly across the country.
On Dec. 21, the Biden Administration announced actions that will produce more at-home COVID-19 tests, provide more resources to hospitals and increase vaccinations.
As part of the announcement, the White House says the federal government will purchase 500 million at-home rapid COVID-19 tests this winter. The Biden Administration says the initial delivery of the new tests is slated for January 2022. Once available, the White House says Americans will be able to have the tests delivered to their homes free of charge.
With many mass testing sites shut down earlier this year after caseloads dropped, Americans across the country have had trouble finding testing appointments in recent weeks. Many national pharmacy chains have also sold out of at-home rapid tests, and those that are still available are expensive.
The president also ordered the Pentagon to make 1,000 military medical personnel ready for deployment to hospitals across the country in the coming months. He also called on that six emergency response teams be deployed to hospitals in six states experiencing severe COVID-19 outbreaks.
Biden also directed FEMA to prepare resources in the event states that need to create more hospital beds to treat additional patients.
Finally, Biden said FEMA would set up more pop-up vaccination sites across the country in the hopes of getting more Americans vaccinated and boosted. He also called on national pharmacy chains to add more vaccination appointments and hire more medical professionals to distribute shots in the weeks ahead.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Dec. 20 that omicron represented 73% of all new COVID-19 cases across the country. Omicron was first detected in the U.S. on Dec. 1, and just a week ago, the CDC estimated that the variant was only responsible for 3% of cases across the country.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a White House medical adviser, has stressed that while the variant evades vaccines at a higher rate, the shots still offer ample protection against the virus, particularly against severe cases.
By Alex Hider, ABC10.