President Joe Biden announced on Thursday that the White House will take stronger steps to curb COVID-19 cases this winter, including more stringent testing for international travelers and easier access to vaccines and booster shots.
Starting next week, all international travelers not from eight countries already banned from entering the U.S. will have to show a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of traveling, whether vaccinated or not. International travelers are already required to be vaccinated to enter the U.S.
Currently, the rule states that intenational travelers need a negative test within three days of their flight. An official said the new rule would keep more infected travelers from coming into the U.S.
The rule only applies to those flying into the U.S., which exempts the tens of thousands of illegal immigrants entering the country each month.
At-home tests reimbursed
In order to facilitate increased testing for the virus, Biden also announced that people with private insurance will be able to get reimbursed for purchasing at-home antigen tests, which are sold in drugstores.
The administration will also distribute 25 million more free at-home tests to underserved communities and rural clinics, an addition to the 25 million tests already being distributed to these locations.
It is unclear whether the administration’s actions are in response to new spikes in COVID-19 cases or to prepare for the new omicron variant, which had its first confirmed case in the U.S. on Wednesday.
Officials will also oversee the possible adjustment of vaccines to respond to the new variant, if necessary.
Omicron variant mild so far
So far, the omicron variant appears to be milder than previous variants, and could be more like a common cold than like previous COVID variants that have killed over 700,000 Americans in the last two years.
The administration wants to be prepared, but it may be overkill if the new variant ends up causing few, if any, hospitalizations and deaths.
Would it be a bad thing if omicron was only as severe as the flu and overtook the more virulent variants?
Of course, we can always count on the government to respond in exactly the wrong way to just about any situation. Where we get into trouble is by expecting the government to be at all helpful in dealing with a situation like COVID-19.