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Biden will supply Americans with 500 million home tests to fight Omicron

President Joe Biden will announce new actions to fight the Omicron variant of the coronavirus on Tuesday, measures that include dispatching 500 million at-home tests to Americans, creating new federal testing sites and deploying 1,000 service members to hospitals across the county. 

Senior administration officials told reporters the first actions will begin this week with the federal government opening new testing sites — the first in New York — in states that need additional testing capacity. Biden has also instructed the federal government to purchase 500 million at-home tests that Americans can order through a website come January and get delivered to their homes at no cost.

These actions will be in addition to the federal government reimbursing insured Americans for at-home tests starting in mid-January and the 50 million tests they have promised to send to Americans without insurance. The administration will also continue to use the Defense Production Act to accelerate the production of tests. 

Senior administration officials say Biden has asked Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to deploy an additional 1,000 service members to hospitals in January and February to help hospitals handle any surge in cases that Omicron causes. Additional emergency response teams will be deployed to six states — Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire and Vermont — with over 100 federal medical personnel and paramedics. The administration has already deployed 300 personnel since the discovery of omicron. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will be activating the National Response Coordination Center at the request of the president and deploying planners to assess hospital needs. The agency is already deploying hundreds of paramedics to states to transport patients from overflowing hospitals.

According to senior administration officials, the U.S. government has hundreds of millions of N95 masks, billions of gloves, tens of millions of gowns, and over 100,000 ventilators in the national stockpile to send to states that need them. The Department of Health and Human Services has already sent ventilators to Indiana, Michigan, Maine and New Hampshire. 

While Biden is shoring up hospital resources, the White House also insists the best way to combat the virus is to get vaccinated and boosted. Senior administration officials said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will open new vaccination clinics across the country and deploy federal vaccinators in 12 states. 

Senior administration officials said the White House believes Americans have the tools to get through the new wave of infections caused by Omicron. In the U.S., 73% of American adults are fully vaccinated and around 1 million booster shots are being administered daily. Senior administration officials said vaccinated and boosted Americans who get infected will likely have mild to no symptoms, while unvaccinated Americans are eight times more likely to be hospitalized and 14 times more likely to die from COVID-19. 

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Biden will not be recommending lockdowns for vaccinated Americans and instead will encourage them to mask while traveling but otherwise enjoy the upcoming holiday with family. 

“What is clear is that we're not in the same place that we were at — and this is something he'll reiterate tomorrow as well — at the beginning of the pandemic, thanks to the President's extraordinary work to get over 200 million Americans vaccinated,” press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday. “To be clear: COVID-19 is not the same threat to fully vaccinated individuals that it was in March 2020.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has counted a six-fold increase of infections with Omicron in only one week. On Sunday, the nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci warned the variant would become dominant. 

“It's going to take over,” Fauci on CNN's "State of the Union." “And be prudent in everything else you do: When you travel, in your indoor settings that are congregated, wear a mask.”

The U.S. has clocked more than 50 million cases and 800,000 deaths over the course of the pandemic to date.

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Pima County Health Department

A Pima County coronavirus testing at the Abrams Public Health Center near the Kino Sport Complex on Tucson's South Side.

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