Biden doubling free US at-home test order to 1 billion
'COVID-19 is one of the most formidable enemies America has ever faced,' US president says
President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he ordered an additional 500 million at-home tests that will be distributed throughout the US for free as part of a multi-pronged plan to combat an unprecedented coronavirus surge.
The number of tests the Biden administration is purchasing now sits at 1 billion and the rollout of a website where Americans will be able to order the tests is on-schedule for next week, said Biden.
The administration is also planning to announce a plan to provide what Biden said will be "high-quality" masks to Americans for free next week.
"I know we all wish that we could finally be done with wearing masks, I get it. But they’re a really important tool to stop the spread of a highly-transmissible omicron variant," he said in remarks broadcast from the White House.
The US is grappling with historic numbers of infections caused by the omicron variant. The country has been averaging close to or more than 1 million daily cases since early January, buckling the health care system as it grapples with staff shortages caused by infections.
Nearly 156,000 hospital beds are being used to treat COVID-19 patients across the country, including 25,000 in intensive care units.
Vaccines continue to offer the best protection against the worst health outcomes from the virus, including hospitalization and death, and Biden said the surge in hospitalizations can be largely attributed to people refusing to get vaccinated.
“As long as we have tens of millions of people who will not get vaccinated, we’re going to have full hospitals and needless deaths," he said. “COVID-19 is one of the most formidable enemies America has ever faced. We have to work together, not against each other.”
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