US to ship 500M additional rapid tests; 2 more national COVID-19 response updates

The U.S. plans to ship 1 billion rapid at-home test kits to Americans, President Joe Biden said during a Jan. 13 update on the nation's COVID-19 response efforts. 

Three things to know: 

1. One billion COVID-19 tests: The U.S. is set to roll out a website next week where Americans can request free at-home tests and have them shipped directly to their homes, President Biden said. In December, the administration first announced it was planning to distribute 500 million free tests to the public. Now, those plans include an additional 500 million tests. The government will also continue to work with retailers to increase test kit availability, the president said. The nation's testing capacity has grown from 50 million a month in September to 300 million. 

2. High-quality masks for Americans: Next week, the nation will also release details on plans to make free high-quality masks available to the public. "I know we all wish that we could finally be done wearing masks. I get it, but they're a really important tool to stop the spread, especially of the highly transmissible omicron variant," the president said. While details aren't yet finalized, officials familiar with the matter told The New York Times one option to distribute the masks is to make them available at community sites. 

The U.S. also has a "strong stockpile of over 750 million [N95] masks for healthcare workers and first responders," Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said Jan. 12. The stockpile has tripled since January 2021, according to the president. 

The plans to send Americans masks come as the CDC announced it is not updating it's COVID-19 mask guidance to recommend people wear medical grade masks over cloth ones. 

3. Military to assist hospitals in six more states: Six additional military medical teams — comprising more than 120 medical personnel — will be deployed to six states to help some of the hospitals hardest hit by the virus. The medical teams will support Cleveland Clinic; Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Coney Island Hospital; Rhode Island Hospital in Providence; Detroit-based Henry Ford Hospital; the University of New Mexico hospital in Albuquerque; and University Hospital in Newark, N.J., CNN reports. 

This is in addition to hundreds of federal medical personnel already on the ground in 11 states — New York, New Hamphsire, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Arizona and New Mexico — according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki. 


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