U.S. President Joe Biden announced that 500 million at-home COVID-19 tests would be made available for free, starting in January.
The president updated the country on its response to the COVID-19 Omicron variant, saying the U.S. wants to make it easier for Americans to get tested for free and make it easier to find out who is infected.
“The federal government will purchase one half billion… additional at-home rapid tests, with deliveries starting in January,” Biden said on Tuesday. “We’ll be getting these tests to Americans for free. We’ll have websites where you can get them delivered to your home. We’ve arranged for it to be easier for you to find free COVID testing sites near you on Google.”
President Biden said the purchase of the at-home tests cost the U.S. $3 billion, with funds being used from the Defense Production Act.
Along with the announcement of the free at-home tests available online, President Biden said private insurance would be required to cover the purchase of at-home testing starting in January.
“Private insurances will also cover at-home testing, so you can order a test online and get reimbursed,” President Biden said. “We have to do more, we have to do better and we will.”
Biden also announced that federal COVID-19 testing sites will also be set up across the country, starting this week in New York City.
With an increase in COVID-19 testing availability, Biden said that vaccinations and booster shots are still the best options to fight against the Omicron variant. He added that unvaccinated individuals have a higher likelihood of death, or hospitalization – noting that both he and former President Donald Trump had both received their booster shots.
“The answer is straightforward: If you’re not fully vaccinated, you have good reason to be concerned,” Biden said. “You’re at a high risk of getting sick and if you get sick you’re likely to spread it to others, including friends and family.”
The president also reiterated that there will not be March 2020-level economic lockdowns, as more than 200 million Americans have been vaccinated and may only face mild symptoms.
“Over 200 million Americans should have the peace of mind that they did not have in March of 2020,” Biden said. “They’re protected from hospitalization and protected from death. In March of 2020 we were not ready… today, we’re ready.
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