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Biden administration details winter COVID plan, with more free tests

With COVID-19 cases rising over the Christmas holiday season, the White House today announced a winter preparedness plan that includes more free at-home tests and intensified vaccination outreach, especially in nursing homes.

Rapid tests, supplies, nursing homes on White House radar

In a statement, the Biden administration said starting today, households can order four rapid tests that will be mailed for free, with shipping to begin on Dec 19.

The statement urged Americans to use the tests when they have symptoms, before and after travel, and before visiting indoors with vulnerable people. More tests will also be distributed to trusted locations, including schools, community health centers, and nursing homes.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also sent a letter to governors to outline key steps to prepare for increases in cases and hospitalizations, reiterating that it stands ready to provide more support through clinical staffing, personal protective equipment and supplies, and technical assistance. "The Administration has prepositioned these supplies in strategic locations across the country so that we can send them to states that need them immediately," HHS said.

In an effort to protect high-risk groups, the administration released a winter playbook for nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Cases continue to rise, including in kids

The steps come amid a steep rise in cases, with the nation's 7-day average for new daily cases at 66,331, up 57% from a week ago, according to Washington Post tracking. By the same measure, hospitalizations are up 8% and deaths are up 103% compared to a week ago.

Infections in children also show a sharp rise, according to the latest update from the American Academy of Pediatrics. For the week ending Dec 8, about 41,000 more COVID cases were reported in children, up 50% from the previous 8 weeks.

[Source: By Lisa Schnirring, CIDRAP News, University of Minnesota, 15Dec22]

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