(NEXSTAR) – With Christmas just days away and the omicron COVID variant already sweeping through the U.S., the demand for COVID testing has increased. The demand is so great, retailers like Walgreens have imposed purchasing limits on their at-home COVID tests.
In response to the omicron variant, President Joe Biden is rolling out new actions on Tuesday. In addition to increasing support for hospitals and expanding vaccination capacity nationwide, Biden’s latest actions include improving access to free COVID testing.
During a Tuesday speech, Biden is expected to announce his administration will purchase 500 million rapid, at-home COVID tests that will be given to Americans who want them for free starting in January. A website will be created for those interested in getting at-home tests delivered to their home at no cost.
To further meet the demand for COVID tests, The White House says Biden will pledge to continue using the Defense Production Act (DPA) and other authorities to make sure the U.S. is producing COVID tests as quickly as possible. The White House reports that over the last week, DPA has been used to ensure two testing manufacturers have the raw materials and equipment needed to produce as many tests as they can.
Biden is also set to announce new federal testing sites will be stood up across the U.S. to help those states that need additional testing capacity. The first of these sites will be in New York City where residents have been facing long lines and wait times. Some reported spending several hours waiting for a COVID test this weekend in lines spanning several city blocks, Nexstar’s WPIX reports.
In addition to these actions to expand COVID testing, Biden will also unveil plans to support hospitals buckling under the new wave of cases and ways to expand access to COVID vaccinations.
This comes just two days after the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said the omicron variant was “just raging around the world.” Scientists say omicron spreads even easier than other coronavirus strains, including delta. It has already become the dominant strain in the U.S., accounting for nearly three-quarters of new infections last week.