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Biden doubles 500 million order for at-home Covid-19 tests

The administration now says it is buying 1 billion coronavirus rapid tests for distribution via post to American homes, followed a week later by high-quality masks.

WASHINGTON (CN) — As Covid-19 cases continue to soar across much of the globe, U.S. President Joe Biden announced Thursday his administration will purchase an additional 500 million rapid Covid-19 tests to mail to Americans.

The White House will begin mailing an already purchased 500 million Covid-19 rapid tests to Americans next week, Biden said. His administration announced the purchase of the first round of tests in December and plans to release details Friday about how Americans can request them via a government-run website.

This announcement comes in light of an all-time high of new cases, as the U.S. recorded more than 780,000 cases and 142,000 related Covid-19 hospitalizations Wednesday.

“Covid-19 is one of the most formidable enemies America has ever faced. We've got to work together, not against each other. We're Americans. We can do this,” Biden said at a press conference Thursday.

The president added that next week his team will announce its plans for distributing free, high-quality masks to the American public. Research indicates that KN95 and N95 masks offer higher levels of protection against Covid-19 than cloth masks or paper surgical masks.

Biden pressed that wearing masks indoors and in public remains one of the best ways, next to vaccinations, to fight Covid-19’s spread.

“I think it’s part of your patriotic duty,” Biden said of masking, noting that this is why he imposed masking mandates in federal buildings and on trains and airplanes.

The president continued to press that unvaccinated portions of Americans are the ones driving up hospitalizations.

“Right now, both vaccinated and unvaccinated people are testing positive — but what happens after that could not be more different,” he said. “If vaccinated people test positive, they're overwhelmingly have either no symptoms at all, or they have mild symptoms. And if they’re unvaccinated if they test positive, they’re 17 times more likely to get hospitalized.”

This can mean less room for anyone else who needs immediate emergency medical attention, he said, like those suffering heart attacks or injured in car collisions.

The president also announced Thursday that his administration is deploying an additional 120 military medical personnel to six states that have been hit hard by Covid-19 case surges: Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island.

To help hospitals deal with case surges, the administration plans to deploy a thousand service members.

Biden added that more than 14,000 National Guard members have thus been sent across 49 states to assist overrun hospitals with vaccinations, testing and other operations — the cost of which is being covered by the American Rescue Plan.

Biden also announced Thursday that he has tapped Dr. Tom Inglesby, previously the director of Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, to lead the federal government’s Covid-19 testing program, also touting how far testing has come since his first day in office, when he said the U.S. averaged just 2 million tests a day.

“None of these tests were at home or rapid test,” Biden said. “This month, it's estimated that we will hit approximately 15 million tests a day, and we'll have over 375 million at home rapid test in January alone. That's a huge leap.”

The Biden administration invoked the Defense Production Act beginning last February to help ramp up production of Covid-19 tests.

Biden noted that insured Americans can be reimbursed for up to eight rapid test kits per person per month, while those without insurance can visit one of the more than 20,000 free testing sites across the country.

Biden too pressed that vaccines are safe, free and widely available, urging Americans to get vaccinated if they haven’t already. 

“As long as we have tens of millions of people who will not get vaccinated, we're going to have full hospitals and needless deaths,” Biden said.

Roughly 210 million Americans are fully vaccinated, and around 80 million have received a booster. 

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