President Joe Biden on Tuesday plans to announce new steps to respond to the spread of the omicron variant, including a program to send free home tests that the White House had dismissed, The New York Times reports.
Biden is set to address the nation after omicron overtook Delta to make up the vast majority of new cases, underscoring its incredibly fast spread as new infections continue to soar.
Biden’s plan includes sending 500 million rapid tests, deploying 1,000 military medical professionals to assist at overburdened hospitals, and new federal testing sites.
The White House plans to launch a website next month where Americans will be able to request the free home tests. Biden will also use the Defense Production Act to accelerate the production of tests.
White House dismissed the idea two weeks ago:
The plan comes just two weeks after Psaki sarcastically dismissed the idea of sending tests to every American. The White House earlier this month said it would instead have insurers reimburse the cost of the tests bought by individuals.
"That's kind of complicated though," a reporter told Psaki during a briefing. "Why not just make them free and give them out to—and have them available everywhere?"
"Should we just send one to every American?" Psaki said, dismissing the idea. "Then what happens if you, if every American, has one test? How much does that cost, and then what happens after that?... I think we share the same objective, which is to make them less expensive and more accessible. Right? Every country is going to do that differently."
WH wants to avoid shutdown:
The White House said Monday that it wants to avoid a lockdown.
“This is not a speech about locking the country down,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. “This is a speech outlining and being directly clear with the American people about the benefits of being vaccinated, the steps we’re going to take to increase access, increase testing, and the risks posed to unvaccinated individuals.”
Leaders in New York, which makes up nearly a quarter of the country’s new cases, also pushed back on the idea of another lockdown.
“This is not March of 2020. We’re one of the most highly vaccinated places in the United States of America,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“The great danger here is shutdowns and restrictions,” he said. “That would really destroy, in so many ways, people’s livelihoods and it would, I think, after everything people have been through — it would be traumatizing.”