President Joe Biden addressed the nation on Tuesday afternoon, detailing how his administration plans to fight the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. Here is the latest on the battle against COVID-19 as the world prepares for the holiday season.
Biden Announces Availability of At-Home Tests
One of the primary goals of the Biden administration is to make at-home rapid tests more widely available to every American. The president said that the government has purchased 500 million new tests that will be available for Americans to request via mail beginning next month.Read More »
The expanded rollout comes as testing sites throughout the nation are overwhelmed with people trying to get tested in advance of the holiday.
Military Deployed to Assist Overcrowded Hospitals
The president also announced new initiatives designed to help overwhelmed hospitals deal with the influx of new patients. Approximately 1,000 military service members will be deployed to various hospitals throughout the US in January and February, including doctors, nurses, and medics.
The new initiatives encompass the launch of additional vaccination sites in order to encourage more Americans to start the process or get the booster. The administration will also deploy hundreds more vaccinators to facilitate the distribution of these shots as quickly as possible.
President Assures No More Lockdown
Biden was quick to assure Americans that he is not expecting the nation to have to go into lockdown with this current wave of the virus. He was clear that the US is not going back to March of 2020.
Americans should also feel free to gather and celebrate the holidays if they are vaccinated. Biden used this time to encourage people to get the booster shots if they have not yet done so.
Israel to Begin Offering 4th Shot
Israel is now offering a fourth dose of the vaccine for those in certain high-risk categories. The additional booster is available to those over the age of 60, healthcare workers, and those individuals with suppressed immune systems. The booster is intended for those who have had at least four months since the third shot.
The nation’s health department also announced that the recommended time gap between the second and third dose is changing to three months from the previous five months.
Latest US Vaccine Data
With all of the talk of booster shots in the US, where does the nation now stand in regards to the vaccination effort? According to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 61.6% of the total US population encompassing all ages are fully vaccinated. This leaves 22.8% of the eligible population of ages five and up with no dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. About 225,000 Americans are starting the vaccination process each day.
Approximately 62.2 million people, or 33.1% of all fully vaccinated adults, have received a booster shot. This figure is even higher for seniors age 65 and above with 55.4% of this population with the booster.
New Vaccination Rules for Chicago
In response to the rapidly rising number of cases, the city of Chicago is now requiring proof of vaccination for businesses that serve food and drink, including restaurants, theaters, bars, sporting venues, and more. According to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, these new requirements will take effect on January 3.
The mandate will apply to residents five and over. Unlike some other cities with similar mandates, there is no option to supply a negative test as an alternative.
Major Pharmacy Chains Limit Purchases of At-Home Testing Kits
As more Americans rush out to purchase at-home testing kits, two major pharmacy chains have announced buying limits. Both CVS and Walgreens announced on Tuesday that they were limiting the number of test kits that consumers can buy at one time. CVS will limit test kits to six per person per purchase. Walgreens will limit customers to buying just four kits at a time. Both corporations said that they are continuing to work with suppliers to ensure more availability.
British Columbia Announces Restrictions
The westernmost province of Canada, British Columbia, is implementing new restrictions to mitigate the increase in new cases in the region. Beginning on Wednesday, all gyms, bars, and nightclubs will be closed. In addition, the province is banning organized indoor social events. The Ministry of Health is also postponing all non-urgent scheduled surgeries beginning on January 4.
Test-to-Stay Policy Pushed for Students
The federal government is pushing for a test-to-stay policy in schools in an effort to limit the number of absences and quarantines for students that are exposed to the virus. The strategy has the green light of the CDC and was detailed by Director Rochelle Walensky last Friday during a press briefing. Children who meet a set of criteria and who have tested negative despite exposure will be allowed to stay in school.
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