“I know this remains frustrating,” Biden said. “Believe me, it’s frustrating to me. But we’re making improvements. In the past two weeks, we’ve stood up federal testing sites all over the country. We’re adding more each and every day,” he added, though he didn’t specify how many.
“With more capacity for in-person testing, we should see waiting lines shortened and more appointments freed up,” he continued.
About $10 billion has been sent to states to facilitate testing at schools, he added.
The U.S. is also doubling its order of Pfizer-BioNTech’s pill for treating the virus to 20 million treatment courses, Biden said, calling it a “game-changing” drug.
As the highly contagious omicron variant of the virus sweeps the nation, appointments for in-person COVID-19 tests have booked up far in advance, and wait times for pop-up testing sites are hourslong in many places. Highly sought-after at-home rapid tests have become scarce in drugstores, even with retailers rationing how many people may purchase.
Biden said testing at home should soon become easier, too. Starting next week, insurance companies will be required to reimburse tests people buy, and the federal government is launching a website this month for people to request free tests.
Last week, the Defense Department announced a $137 million contract to increase production of a key component of rapid COVID-19 tests.
But for many, the tests can’t come fast enough. Though the vaccines appear to be highly effective at minimizing symptoms of COVID-19 in people who have had their full dosage, cases are still soaring, putting immunocompromised people at serious risk and overwhelming hospitals. On Monday, the U.S. reported a million new cases, shattering previous records.
Hospitalization numbers are high, too. More than 100,000 Americans are currently hospitalized with the virus ― a figure the country has surpassed only twice before. More than a quarter of the nation’s intensive care beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients.