President Joe Biden will deliver a big speech about covid-19 on Tuesday, including an announcement that his administration will mail out roughly 500 million free at-home tests for covid-19, according to a White House press statement early Tuesday. Unfortunately, those tests won’t be going out before the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, when large groups of people will be gathering together.
“Today, the President is announcing his Administration will purchase a half-billion at-home, rapid tests this winter to be distributed for free to Americans who want them, with the initial delivery starting in January 2022,” the White House said in a statement.
“The Administration will stand up a website where Americans can go to get at-home tests delivered to their home — for free,” the statement continued.
It’s not clear how many tests Americans will be able to order at one time, nor how long it will take for them to be delivered. People in the UK, as just one example, are allowed to order seven free tests at a time, though the country has recently run into shortages due to the surge in omicron cases.
The decision to mail out free tests is a reversal from just a few weeks ago when White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki ridiculed the idea as unrealistic. Psaki asked, “should we just send one to every American?” in a way that apparently was meant to suggest that many Americans wouldn’t want them. That problem is easily fixed, of course, by having Americans request the tests online, much like they’re able to do in other countries.
Psaki’s disdain for the idea of delivering free tests seemed to be real turning point for Americans who have come to the realisation that Joe Biden fully owns the public health response to the pandemic now. Whatever massive failings President Donald Trump made are in the past, as Biden’s one-year anniversary of becoming president is just around the corner on January 20.
What else does President Biden plan to say during today’s big covid-19 address? For one thing, lockdowns are a non-starter, according to Psaki. But there are plenty of other tools Biden will use to fight the current surge of cases seen in almost every state.
Biden is deploying 1,000 members of the military in January and February to work as support staff at hospitals that are stretched thin. The president will also announce a new initiative to get FEMA involved in expanding hospital capacity.
“The President is directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to activate additional staffing and capacity for the National Response Coordination Centre (NRCC) and FEMA regions, and to mobilize planning teams to work with every state and territory to assess hospital needs ahead of winter surges, and to start expanding hospital bed capacity now — with the federal government paying for all of it,” the White House said in a press release.
“The Administration is also pre-positioning the federal government’s own supplies and resources to help make more beds available,” the statement continued.
The White House will also be ramping up the number of ventilators being distributed to the states and new federally-run testing sites are going to be opened up, including some in New York that are expected to open just this week. There’s also a plan to expand vaccinations for kids at the nation’s pharmacies.
The U.S. reported 268,307 new cases of covid-19 on Monday, a higher number than usual likely due to a backlog from over the weekend. The seven-day average for new cases in the country is 142,973, which is still trending higher. The U.S. also reported 1,756 new deaths from covid-19 on Monday.
And if the country doesn’t throw everything it can at omicron, those numbers are expected to get worse in the coming weeks and months. In fact, the director of the NIH recently warned the U.S. could see one million new cases every day if steps aren’t taken quickly.
Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.