President Joe Biden has announced the purchase of 500 million additional COVID-19 tests as part of an effort to boost testing as the nation contends with a surge of cases due to the highly contagious Omicron variant.
The announcement adds to the 500 million additional at-home COVID-19 tests that the Biden administration purchased in December, which start being distributed later this month. The administration is also preparing a website that will enable people to order these tests for free.
“Today, as a part of the President’s remarks and briefing, he will announce that in addition to the 500 million tests that we are in the process of acquiring, he is directing his team to procure 500 million more tests to meet future demand,” a White House official said.
Experts acknowledge that while the additional tests are sorely needed, they are not yet enough to meet the demands of a population of 330 million people.
Last week, a group of congressional Democrats called on the Biden administration to shore up the nation’s testing apparatus so that every American can take at least one rapid test per week.
“Ensuring widespread access to free COVID-19 rapid testing is among the most effective public health tools that the federal government has at its disposal, but the current supply shortage is preventing effective utilization of this commonsense mitigation strategy,” they wrote in a letter addressed to the President.
“While we are pleased to see that the administration has committed to purchasing 500 million antigen tests that will be distributed throughout the country for free, we believe that the threat of the Omicron variant demands the most comprehensive public health response possible from the federal government,” they added. “We strongly urge you to consider and implement the following policies to build on your administration’s efforts to increase access to COVID-19 rapid tests.”