March 24, 2023

US to mail out 500m rapid Covid test amid first Omicron death in Texas – Times of India

WASHINGTON: The US government will soon mail out 500 million rapid Covid tests to homes across America even as the country recorded its first Omicron death on Monday and authorities announced the variant is now the dominant version of the virus, accounting for 73 per cent of new infections in the US last week.
President Joe Biden is scheduled to address Americans later today to announce measures on a war footing, including deploying 1000 military medical professional at overburdened hospitals, setting up new federal testing sites, and expanding capacity to vaccinate more people.
The US President however does not intend to dampen the Christmas spirit: There will be no talk of shut down or announcement of any new restrictions on travel or business, or closure of schools, which in any case are winding down for Christmas and New Year.
“This is not a speech about locking the country down. This is a speech outlining and being direct and clear with the American people about the benefits of being vaccinated, the steps we’re going to take to increase access and to increase testing, and the risks posed to unvaccinated individuals,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a preview of the speech that will come on the morning of winter solstice, which will see the shortest day and longest night of the year.
Some 40 million Americans, many of them anti-vaxxers, are yet to take a shot, and the US steps to ramp up vaccines and testing will be watched across the world for its efficacy.
The White House push came a day after officials in Texas announced the death from Omicron of an unvaccinated man in his 50s who had been infected with the coronavirus before and had unspecified pre-existing conditions. He was reportedly treated with Regeneron antibody therapy in an unsuccessful attempt to save his life.
But there were also reports of several prominent people testing positive for the virus despite being triple-vaxxed, including the governor of Maryland Larry Hogan, and two Democratic Senators, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker.
Warren, who lost her eldest brother to Covid in April 2020, tweeted, “I regularly test for COVID & while I tested negative earlier this week, today I tested positive with a breakthrough case. Thankfully, I am only experiencing mild symptoms & am grateful for the protection provided against serious illness that comes from being vaccinated & boosted.” She urged everyone who has not got the vaccine and the booster to do so.
But vaccine resistance remained strong among right wing skeptics who dwelt on breakthrough Omicron infections even among the triple-vaxxed, though those who went through it pointed to milder symptoms and avoiding hospitalisation. They accused the President of a morbid fascination with the virus after he warned the unvaccinated last week that they are “looking at a winter of severe illness and death … for themselves, their families, and the hospitals they’ll soon overwhelm.”
“But there’s good news: If you’re vaccinated and you had your booster shot, you’re protected from severe illness and death — period,” Biden said in a remarks he is expected to expand later on Tuesday, including an announcement that the administration will start mailing out the 500 million (yet-to-be purchased) tests in January after setting up a website for people to register their requirement.
Biden himself had a close encounter with the virus after he was in proximity on Friday with a vaccinated White House staffer who later tested positive. The President’s spokesperson said Biden had since tested negative.

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