The Biden administrator’s plan to distribute 500 million COVID tests from next month is not near enough, say health experts

The Biden administration last week announced a plan to buy 500 million home-made rapid tests for COVID-19 and distribute them for free, but health experts say the number is far below what is needed to counter the omicron rise and should have been distributed weeks ago.

Amesh Adalja, senior researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Safety at Bloomberg School Public Health, said the administration’s failure to roll out kits before the Christmas and New Year holidays was a “lost opportunity.”

People are queuing up to receive test kits to detect COVID-19 as they deploy in New York on December 23, 2021.

People are queuing up to receive test kits to detect COVID-19 as they deploy in New York on December 23, 2021.
(AP Photo / Craig Ruttle, File)

“A lot of people have probably done something – and you might see some infections from this, or they did not enjoy themselves because they were scared,” Adalja told Fox News. “The quality of life for people over Christmas was likely to deteriorate if they could not get a test because either they… still went and did their activities and then they are worried, ‘Have I infected my family members or my friends?’

“Or they just decided to stay home and missed it. So none of these are good scenarios,” he said.

President Biden’s test kit plan comes as new cases of COVID-19 in the United States have risen to their highest level ever by over 265,000 a day on average, an increase driven in part by the highly contagious omicron variant. Meanwhile, a nationwide lack of COVID testing has resulted in queues backed up for miles in some cases as Americans waited for their virus checks before the holidays.

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New cases a day have more than doubled in the last two weeks, overshadowing the old mark of 250,000, set in mid-January, according to data kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Stanford University Professor of Medicine Jay Bhattacharya called the Biden administration’s timing “unfortunate” and said it should have foreseen the “completely predictable winter wave.”

“I think it would have been useful to protect the vulnerable by giving people a tool to understand if they are positive and thus pose a certain risk to older people in their lives, especially in times of high social transfer,” “Bhattacharya told Fox News.

Vanity Fair reported last week that the Biden administration rejected a more robust proposal in October to increase tests ahead of Thanksgiving and Christmas

When confronted with the report this week, Biden denied that his administration rejected the plan.

Bhattacharya said the figure of 500 million is still far too low, even though it is limited to America’s working population.

“I think the more appropriate use of (tests) is that you check before you visit grandma, you check before you go to a big party,” Bhattacharya said. “It’s harder to measure exactly how many, but you know, I can easily imagine that every 200 million need at least one test a week.”

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At a Wednesday press conference, Jeffrey Zients, coordinator for Coronavirus in the White House, said the first shipment of rapid tests will not go out in days, if not weeks.

“Companies are already submitting information and we expect the contract to be finalized by the end of next week,” he said. “This means that the first deliveries to manufacturers will start in January.”

“We are actively working to complete this distribution mechanism, which includes a website where people will be able to order tests for free. And we will share more details in the coming days and weeks.”

People line up for a free COVID-19 speed test at a gas station in the Reseda section of Los Angeles on Sunday, December 26, 2021, while California prepares for a virus rise after the holidays.

People line up for a free COVID-19 speed test at a gas station in the Reseda section of Los Angeles on Sunday, December 26, 2021, while California prepares for a virus rise after the holidays.
(AP Photo / Richard Vogel)

Neil Jay Sehgal, an assistant professor of health policy and management at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, told Fox News that he hopes other channels will help compensate for the shortcomings in the Biden administration’s plan.

“The reality is that we probably do not want them in time to mitigate the current increase and at least that,” Sehgal said. “If the transmission was at the level of October or November, would we have enough tests right now? Probably. I think most people would feel safe with test availability.

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“The challenge is that we are heading into an omicron rise, as people in the public health community had warned … this was an opportunity and was certainly on the horizon for many of us, but I do not think was one, we sufficiently prepared.”

The rapidly spreading mutant version of the virus has thrown itself over Christmas and New Year, leading to communities turning down or canceling their festivities just weeks after it appeared the Americans were enjoying an almost normal holiday season. . Thousands of flights have been canceled due to staff shortages caused by the virus.

The threat from omicron and the desire to spend the holidays with friends and loved ones has prompted many Americans to be tested for COVID-19.

People are waiting in line to be tested for COVID in the Lower East Side on Tuesday, December 21, 2021 in New York.

People are waiting in line to be tested for COVID in the Lower East Side on Tuesday, December 21, 2021 in New York.
(AP)

The number of Americans now in the hospital with COVID-19 runs at about 60,000, or about half the number seen in January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

While hospitalizations sometimes lag behind cases, hospital numbers can reflect both the protection the vaccine provides and the possibility that omicron does not make people as ill as previous versions.

COVID-19 deaths in the United States have risen over the past two weeks from an average of 1,200 a day to about 1,500.

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The WHO reported that new COVID-19 cases worldwide rose 11% last week compared to the week before, with nearly 4.99 million registered 20-26. December. But the UN health agency also noted a drop in cases in South Africa, making the world aware of the variant just over a month ago.

Fox News’ Paul Best and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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