Amid a nationwide surge of the omicron variant of COVID-19, the Biden administration has announced a deal relating to 500 million at-home tests to be provided to American citizens. Karine Jean-Pierre, the deputy press secretary of the administration, made an announcement regarding these deals on Friday.
“We are actively finalizing the details of the distribution mechanism,” she said. “I would expect us to provide those details next week, and yes, these tests will be sent out through the mail…last night we issued out our first letter award to provide tests toward this half a billion.”
With an already strapped supply chain facing even more upheaval due to the recent surge in cases, the administration seems to realize that the next few weeks are going to be crucial in the battle to regain control of the economy. Already, the CDC is attempting to make life easier for businesses and employees who want to get back to work. Shortening the period of time that people need to isolate after being exposed or contracting the virus, they have adjusted to omicron’s unique nature. With this specific variant of COVID, which is now responsible for over 90% of the cases in the United States, incubation periods are shorter and those who come down with the illness appear to be bouncing back faster. While case rates are high, hospitalizations and deaths are much lower than they were with the original variant and with delta. Experts seem hopeful that with so many exposures and over half of American adults vaccinated, the country will at last start to experience some herd immunity.
Testing will undoubtedly play an important role in America’s quest to get back to work. While PCR tests are considered a bit more reliable, many believe that at-home tests will help Americans to assess for themselves whether or not it is safe for them to go out. Many have marveled that it is still so difficult to find tests two years after the start of this pandemic. This is partly because neither administration made much of a priority of testing. Vaccination has been front and center, so testing fell by the wayside. At the beginning of the vaccination program rollout, it was generally believed that vaccinations would greatly reduce the risk of contracting COVID, thus making the tests essentially obsolete. However, although vaccinations seem to be excellent at keeping people out of the hospital and preventing them from dying, there are a lot more breakthrough cases of COVID than initially anticipated. This is what drives the need for testing, and part of the issue has been finding reliable partners.
After all, before signing on the dotted line to produce millions of tests, many businesses want reassurance that their services will be required for years to come. The recent action by the Biden administration seems to signal that the providers of these tests have been given assurances that their efforts will pan out in the long run. As a result, millions of Americans will be able to test themselves for COVID — for free and in the convenience of their own homes.