Biden will offer 500M COVID-19 test-free to combat omicron

WASHINGTON (AP), -- President Joe Biden will announce 500 million rapid tests free of charge for Americans. He also plans to increase support for hospitals that are under strain.

Biden will offer 500M COVID-19 test-free to combat omicron

Biden will make major changes to COVID-19's winter plan in a speech on Tuesday afternoon. This is due to the fact that scientists are still not fully understanding the properties of the rapidly-growing omicron variant.

As families and friends gather, the world faces the possibility of another holiday season with COVID-19. Scientists aren't sure if omicron is more severe, but they know that vaccination should provide strong protection against serious illness and death. The White House gave details about the proposals Biden would announce in his speech.

Biden's purchase of 500 million coronavirus rapid test kits and their free shipping to America in January is a key part of the plan. The new website will allow people to order their tests. They will then be sent by U.S. Mail at no cost. This is a significant shift for Biden's earlier plan, which had required that many Americans purchase difficult-to-find tests and then claim reimbursement from their insurance.

Biden's original approach was criticized by public health experts who warned that the U.S. could face new problems with testing in a crucial time. They pointed out other advanced countries like the United Kingdom that provide access to testing. The U.S. has a higher cost for rapid testing at home than Europe and is frustratingly difficult to find in stores.

Federal government will also open new testing facilities and use the Defense Production Act for more test production. New York will soon see the opening of its first federally funded testing site. These new sites will increase the number of testing sites that are already available to 20,000. Officials at the White House said that they are working with Google to make it easier for people to search "free COVID testing near me"

Biden will deploy 1,000 additional troops equipped with medical skills to help hospitals that are struggling under the new COVID-19 wave. Biden is also sending federal medical personnel immediately to Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin. Plans are also in place to prepare additional ventilators, protective equipment and other hospital resources from the national stockpile.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide a backup by deploying hundreds of paramedic teams and ambulances so that patients can be transported to other hospitals if one hospital is full. Paramedic teams and ambulances have already been dispatched to New York, Maine and Vermont.

Vaccination is still the best defense because it can prevent disease from ever happening. Multiple vaccination stations will be set up by the government, and hundreds of people will be trained to administer shots. The new rules will allow pharmacists to cross state lines and administer more shots.

A booster shot can be given to those who have been fully vaccinated. Lab tests show that it provides strong protection against the omicron. There are many reports about breakthrough cases, but data shows that people who have been vaccinated are less likely to contract serious diseases such as pneumonia or even death. Biden will issue a harsh warning to those who aren't vaccinated that they risk their lives as well as the lives of their family members.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated that Biden will not impose any lockdowns during Monday's press conference. Instead, she will encourage people to get immunized -- and, if possible, their booster shots.

"This isn't a speech about locking down the country. Psaki stated to reporters that this was a speech about vaccine benefits.

Biden finds himself in a delicate situation of alerting the nation to the dangers of omicron while also reassuring Americans about the safety of the vaccines. Officials at the White House are trying to help the country accept the reality of an endemic disease with lower stakes for those who have been vaccinated. As cases rise, and deaths and serious illnesses among the unvaccinated dominate news headlines, this has made it difficult to strike a balance.

There are 40 millions of eligible, but not vaccinated Americans. There are a variety of cultural, political and social barriers that have prevented efforts to increase vaccination rates from succeeding. Psaki stated that the president intends to appeal to survival instincts.

Monday's report by her health expert stated that COVID is 14 times more likely if you haven't been vaccinated than if you were vaccinated.

Scientists believe that omicron spreads faster than any other coronavirus strains including delta. It was responsible for almost three quarters of all new infections in the United States last week.

The White House stated late Monday that Biden was in close contact with a staffer who later tested positive to COVID-19, underscoring the extent of the disease. On Friday's flight from Orangeburg, South Carolina to Philadelphia, the staffer spent approximately 30 minutes with President Biden. Psaki stated that the staffer had tested positive for the disease earlier Monday.

Psaki stated that Biden tested negative twice since Sunday, and will again test positive on Wednesday. Psaki cited guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and said Biden did not need to be quarantined and would continue his regular schedule.

Nearly 42,600 New York City residents tested positive for HIV from Wednesday to Saturday, compared to 35,800 for the whole month of November. Since testing became more widely available, the city has never seen so many people test positive in such short time.

This latest outbreak is a reflection of the global challenges in stopping the coronavirus pandemic.

While the Dutch government initiated a nationwide lockdown to combat rising infections on Sunday, many European leaders opted for less. Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, stated that officials have decided not to impose further restrictions.

France and Germany have banned most British tourists from entering. The government in Paris has also banned fireworks and public concerts at New Year's Eve celebrations. Ireland has imposed a curfew of 8 p.m. on bars and restricted attendance at outdoor and indoor events. Greece will have 10,000 officers on duty during the holidays to perform COVID-19 passes checks.

The national average number of new cases in Spain is now double that it was one year ago. Portugal, a neighboring country, is encouraging most non-essential workers to work at home for one week in January.

On Monday, stock markets in Asia and Europe fell with fears that infections could impact global economic growth and make it more difficult to supply goods and services.