Christmas is just around the corner, but many Americans are likely reconsidering any holiday travel plans. All over the country, new cases of COVID-19 are on the rise. The Omicron variant is making its presence known, and even in places where the vaccination rate is high, the virus is spreading rapidly. States are more hesitant to take drastic measures like shutting down businesses or restricting travel. As a result, this wave could be even larger than last winter’s. That’s why Joe Biden’s White House is planning to distribute 500 million free at-home COVID tests starting next month.
Free at-home COVID tests coming in January
According to NBC News, the Biden administration is buying 500 million at-home COVID-19 testing kits. The White House is also setting up a website where any US household will be able to request a kit for free. These kits won’t start shipping until January, though, which means many Americans will either have to wait in long lines to get a test or simply won’t bother ahead of Christmas.
One of the biggest problems facing American citizens right now is testing capacity. In New York City, lines often wrap around the block as people attempt to get tested before the holidays. In order to fix this problem, the White House will also set up 20,000 new testing sites nationwide. The first new site will open in NYC — where COVID cases are at an all-time high — before Christmas
Furthermore, Biden will ask 1,000 members of the military to prepare to help overburdened hospitals around the US in January and February. This deployment will include doctors, nurses, and medics. The administration does not want to have to deploy them all, but will if necessary.
Vaccinated vs. unvaccinated
The Biden administration has become increasingly aggressive in its push to vaccinate every American. Even the messaging has shifted as the White House is more blunt than ever. Here is what one senior administration official said regarding holiday travel for the vaccinated:
Because omicron spreads easily, we will see fully vaccinated people get Covid-19. But vaccinated people who get Covid will likely have no symptoms or mild symptoms. Because of that strong protection, the president will tell the American people if they are vaccinated and follow the process that we all know well, especially masking while traveling, they should feel comfortable celebrating Christmas and holidays.
Meanwhile, here’s what the same official had to say to unvaccinated individuals:
If you are unvaccinated, you are at high risk of getting sick. This variant is highly transmissible, and the unvaccinated are eight times more likely to be hospitalized and 14 times more likely to die from Covid.
Data has repeatedly shown how much more likely the unvaccinated are to end up in the hospital. Hospitals are already struggling to keep up with the influx of patients in many parts of the country. If you don’t want to spend Christmas in the waiting room of a hospital, getting vaccinated and get your booster as soon as possible.