Biden Announces 500 Million Free Rapid Home-Testing to Confront Omicron Surge

Fighting the omicron variant surging through the country, President Joe Biden announced the government will provide 500 million free rapid home-testing kits, increase support for hospitals under strain and redouble vaccination and boosting efforts.

At the White House on Tuesday, Biden detailed major changes to his COVID-19 winter plan, his hand forced by the fast-spreading variant, whose properties are not yet fully understood by scientists.

Yet his message was clear that the winter holidays could be close to normal for the vaccinated while potentially dangerous for the unvaccinated.

His pleas are not political, he emphasized. He noted that former President Donald Trump has gotten his booster shot, and he said it’s Americans’ “patriotic duty” to get vaccinated.

“It’s the only responsible thing to do,” the president said. “Omicron is serious and potentially deadly business for unvaccinated people.”

Biden chastised social media and people on cable TV who have made misleading statements to discourage people from getting vaccinated.

The outbreak from this latest strain of the coronavirus has required the federal government to get more aggressive in addressing the wave of infections, but Biden promised a weary nation that there would not be a mass lockdown of schools or businesses.

“I know you’re tired, and I know you’re frustrated. We all want this to be over. But we’re still in it,” Biden said.

“We also have more tools than we had before. We’re ready, we’ll get through this.”

Scientists don’t know everything about omicron yet, but they do know that vaccination should offer strong protection against severe illness and death.

The variant has spread at such an alarming rate since it was identified in South Africa about a month ago that the Biden administration snapped into action to offer new tests and additional aid. Still more is needed, some medical experts said.

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