Biden Says Added Covid Testing Capacity Should Ease Lines
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden said long lines for Covid-19 tests -- fueled by surging cases of the omicron variant -- should start to ease as the federal government increases capacity.
Biden told reporters at the White House on Tuesday that U.S. has opened new testing sites around the country and that drug stores are restocking home test kits.
“With more capacity for in-person tests, we should see waiting lines shorten and more appointments freed up,” Biden said.
The U.S. recorded over a million cases on Monday, nearly doubling the previous records. Hospitalizations are increasing as well, fueled by the virus rapidly spreading among the unvaccinated, whose illness tends to be far more serious than those who have received shots.
The U.S. had faced a shortage of tests, leaving many unable to make appointments, particularly as Americans traveled during the holidays.
“Believe me, it’s frustrating to me,” Biden said.
The testing crunch could even be seen at the U.S. Capitol. A day after the attending physician of the Capitol said there had been an “explosive” growth of infections in the complex, lines were more than 90 minutes deep midday on Tuesday. Staffers returning to work after the Christmas recess queued up, as far fewer testing staff than ususal were on hand.
Biden has used wartime powers to accelerate manufacturing and has also pledged to order 500 million rapid tests to send directly to U.S. homes, with contracts set to be finalized this week and shipments due beginning this month. It’s not clear how quickly all 500 million will be available.
U.S. officials say that the vaccinated, and particularly those who have received a booster shot, are very likely to have only a mild case, if they have symptoms at all. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shortened its recommended timeline for a booster shot on Tuesday, urging people to get a third Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE dose five months after their second, rather than six.
Pfizer said Tuesday that the Biden administration doubled its order of Pfizer’s Covid antiviral pill, to 20 million courses, in a move to address a surge in cases of omicron. The pills, however, take months to make and the full order will arrive by September.
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