Speed Reads

Omicron Rising

Biden's new Omicron plan involves mailing households half a billion at-home COVID tests, White House says

President Biden on Tuesday will lay out his new plan to tackle the dominant new COVID-19 Omicron variant, including deploying military medical personnel and other health resources to strained hospitals, strongly encouraging unvaccinated Americans to get inoculated and vaccinated Americans to get a booster shot, and sending 500 million free at-home rapid COVID-19 tests to U.S. households, White House officials said Monday night, previewing Biden's Tuesday afternoon speech. 

The Biden administration has been cool to the idea of mailing out COVID tests to households, and Biden announced earlier this month an alternate plan for health insurers to reimburse people for tests they buy at stores. That plan will still go into effect on Jan. 15, ABC News reports, though at-home tests are running out at pharmacies and retailers as the Omicron explosion runs into pre-Christmas preparations. 

The half a billion tests in the new plan can be requested through a new website that will be launched next month. The administration will also set up new federal testing sites around the country, starting with New York City this week.

Biden will announce the immediate deployment of emergency medical teams to overwhelmed hospitals in Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, Vermont, and New Hampshire, with an additional 1,000 military doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other medical personnel on standby for states that need them in January and February, The Washington Post reports. The administration has also "pre-positioned" N95 masks, gloves, gowns, and ventilators from the national stockpile ready "so that we can send them to states that need them immediately," the White House said.

"Noticeably missing from the new government efforts will be any attempts to enact further restrictions or lockdowns — which some European countries have opted for as Omicron has swept through their populations," ABC News notes. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that Biden's speech is not "about locking the country down. This is a speech about the benefits of being vaccinated."