Biden on Tuesday will announce that his administration has purchased 500 million at-home rapid coronavirus tests that will be distributed to Americans who want them starting next month.
President Joe Biden on Tuesday will tell the U.S. that breakthrough cases among vaccinated people will increase as the highly transmissible omicron continues to spread but that unvaccinated people remain at a much higher risk of getting severely ill and dying from the coronavirus.
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Americans who are fully vaccinated should feel comfortable celebrating Christmas and the holidays as long as they follow mitigation strategies like wearing a mask while traveling, Biden will say in his speech, according to senior administration officials who detailed his planned remarks.
He will also announce additional federal assistance for hospitals, including personnel and medical equipment, and new federal testing sites starting with one in New York City this week.
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Additionally, the Biden administration will announce it has purchased 500 million at-home rapid coronavirus tests to be delivered to Americans who want them starting in January. This move comes as holiday plans and the spread of omicron have led to massive lines at some testing facilities and empty shelves at pharmacies that sell such tests. Many experts have said that a testing problem persists in the U.S.
“Today’s actions will mitigate the impact unvaccinated individuals have on our healthcare system, while increasing access to free testing and getting more shots in arms to keep people safe and our schools and economy open,” the White House said in a fact sheet.
Biden’s remarks will come a day after omicron was reported as the dominant strain circulating in the U.S. Despite the highly transmissible variant’s rapid rise, Biden will stand by his previous comments that the U.S. doesn’t need to go into lockdown.
“This is not a speech about locking the country down,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday. “This is a speech outlining and being direct and clear with the American people about the benefit of being vaccinated, the steps we’re going to take to increase access and to increase testing and the risks posed to unvaccinated individuals.”
[ READ: Omicron Rapidly Tops Delta as Most Common Coronavirus Variant in U.S. ]
The White House said the actions build off of the winter plan Biden announced earlier this month, which included tightening testing requirements for international travelers, reimbursements from private insurers for at-home COVID-19 tests, increasing access to free at-home tests at community sites and extending mask requirements for planes, trains and public transportation into March.
“We knew there’d be cases of this omicron here in the United States, and it’s here. But we have the best tools, the best vaccines in the world, the best medicine and the best scientists in the world,” Biden said at the time.
But experts worry that not enough Americans are vaccinated or following mitigation measures to prevent a winter surge in coronavirus cases.
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