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Biden pledges 500 million free COVID-19 tests to fight omicrons

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WASHINGTON (AP)

With the omicron variant on the march, President Joe Biden plans to announce 500 million free rapid tests for Americans, boost support for hospitals under strain, and double down on immunization efforts and increase.

In a speech scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, Biden is announcing major changes to his COVID-19 winter plans, his hands forced by appearance and spread. rapidity of the omicron variation, whose properties are still poorly understood by scientists.

The world is facing the prospect of a second consecutive COVID-19 holiday as families and friends begin to gather. Scientists still don’t know if omicrons cause more serious diseases, but they do know that vaccination provides strong protection against severe illness and death. The White House provided details on the proposals Biden will announce during his speech.

The cornerstone of the plan is Biden’s decision to have the government purchase 500 million coronavirus rapid tests and deliver them to Americans for free starting in January. People will use a new website to order their tests, which will then be sent to them by US mail. That marks a major shift for Biden, whose previous plan called for many Americans to purchase hard-to-find tests themselves and then seek reimbursement from their health insurance.

Public health experts have criticized Biden’s initial approach as unwieldy and warned that the US will face another set of testing problems at a critical time. They point to other advanced countries like the UK, where the government guarantees access to testing. In the US, rapid tests for home use are much more expensive than in Europe, and they prove difficult to find in stores.

The federal government will also establish new testing sites and use the Defense Production Act to help produce more tests.

To support hospitals battling a new wave of COVID-19, Biden has prepared to deploy 1,000 additional troops with medical skills as well as direct federal health workers to Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona , New Hampshire and Vermont. There are also plans to send more ventilators and equipment from the national stockpile, expanding hospital capacity to handle infected patients.

The government will also set up vaccination sites and provide hundreds of staff to administer the shots. The new regulations will make it easier for pharmacists working across the state lines to support public health efforts.

The scientists stress that vaccination remains the best approach to keeping Americans safe from omicrons. For people who are fully vaccinated, a booster shot has been shown in laboratory tests to provide strong protection against the variant. While reports of groundbreaking cases abound, the data shows that vaccinated people become infected with a much lower risk of serious illness leading to hospitalization or death. To the unvaccinated, Biden plans to give stern advice that they are risking their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

In a preview of Biden’s speech, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at Monday’s news conference that the Democratic president has no plans to impose any bans and will instead encourage people get vaccinated – and if they qualify, their booster shot.

“This is not a speech about shutting down the country. This is a speech about the benefits of vaccination,” Psaki told reporters.

Biden’s top medical adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, said over the weekend that Biden would issue “a clear warning about what winter will look like” to unvaccinated Americans.

Biden has found himself in the delicate position of both warning the country about the dangers posed by omicrons and reassuring Americans that a vaccine will protect them. White House officials are seeking to placate the nation back into accepting the reality of an endemic virus with much lower stakes for the vaccinated. This means striking a difficult balance as cases rise and as deaths and severe illness among the unvaccinated headlines dominate.

Underscoring how widespread the virus is, the White House said late Monday that Biden had been in close contact with an employee who later tested positive for COVID-19. Staff members spent about 30 minutes around the president aboard Air Force One on Friday during a trip from Orange, South Carolina, to Philadelphia. The staff, who have been fully vaccinated and boosted their health, tested positive early Monday, said Psaki.

Psaki said Biden has tested negative twice since Sunday and will test again on Wednesday. Citing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Psaki said Biden does not need to be quarantined and will continue with his normal schedule.

There are 40 million eligible but unvaccinated American adults. Efforts to increase vaccination rates have struggled to overcome a range of political, social and cultural divisions. Psaki said the president plans to appeal to survival instincts.

“Our medical experts estimate that you are 14 times more likely to die from COVID if you are unvaccinated than if you were vaccinated,” she said.

Scientists say omicrons spread even more easily than other strains of coronavirus, including delta. It has become the dominant strain in the US, accounting for nearly three-quarters of new infections in the last week.

Early studies show that vaccination will require a booster shot for the best chance of preventing omicron infection, but even without an additional dose, vaccination largely protects people. from serious illness or death.

In New York City, nearly 42,600 people citywide tested positive Wednesday through Saturday — compared with fewer than 35,800 in all of November. The city has never had so many people test. tested positive in such a short period of time since the test became widely available; There is no clear picture of the number of people infected with the virus during the city’s first outbreak in spring 2020.

The latest outbreak reflects the global challenges in containing the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dutch government began a tough nationwide lockdown on Sunday to curb a steep rise in infections, but many European leaders have opted for something less. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said officials had decided not to impose further restrictions, at least for now.

France and Germany have banned most British tourists from entering, and authorities in Paris have banned public concerts and fireworks during New Year’s celebrations. Ireland imposes an 8pm curfew on pubs and bars and restricts attendance to indoor and outdoor events, while Greece will have 10,000 police on duty over the holidays to carry it out check the COVID-19 card.

In Spain, the national average incidence is more than double what it was a year ago. Neighboring Portugal is telling most workers it is not necessary to work from home for a week in January.

Stock markets in Asia, Europe and the US fell on Monday on expectations that the contagion could weigh on global economic growth and exacerbate global supply chain challenges.

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Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

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https://www.winknews.com/2021/12/21/biden-to-pledge-500m-free-covid-19-tests-to-counter-omicron/ Biden pledges 500 million free COVID-19 tests to fight omicrons

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