Biden Administration announces COVID-19 Winter Preparedness Plan
Starting today, all U.S. households can order a total of four at-home COVID-19 tests that will be delivered for free.
The Biden Administration announced a plan to stay ahead of an increase in COVID-19 cases this winter.
While COVID-19 is not the disruptive force it once was, the virus continues to evolve, and cases are on the rise again as families are spending more time indoors and gathering for the holidays.
The Administration’s COVID-19 Winter Preparedness Plan includes:
- Ahead of continued increases in cases, the Administration is taking new action to ensure that all Americans have easy and free access to COVID-19 tests in the winter months and is making free at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests available here. Starting today, all U.S. households can order a total of four at-home COVID-19 tests that will be mailed directly to them for free;
- In the absence of Congress providing additional funding for the nation’s COVID-19 response, the Administration has acted with its limited existing funding to add more at-home COVID-19 tests to the nation’s stockpile and support this round of ordering ahead of continued increases in COVID-19 cases. Orders for this round of testing will begin to ship starting the week of Dec.19 and continue in the weeks ahead;
- The Administration also will make tests available to individuals who are blind or have low-vision. People who have difficulty accessing the internet or need additional support placing an order can call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489) to get help in English, Spanish and more than 150 other languages – 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. E.T., Monday to Friday and 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. E.T. on weekends. For more information, people can visit here;
[Read more: CVS pharmacists to prescribe COVID-19 antiviral treatments nationwide]
- Distributing more free tests to Americans at trusted locations. In addition to continuing to support access to free COVID-19 tests in schools, community health centers, rural health clinics, long-term care facilities and other convenient locations, the Administration is announcing additional distribution programs to reach people with free, at-home tests. This includes distributing free at-home tests at more than 6,500 Department of Housing and Urban Development-assisted rental housing properties serving seniors; and expanding a program to distribute free at-home tests to as many as 500 major food banks for them to distribute to people in their communities;
- Making vaccinations and treatments readily available to all Americans as cases rise. As we have throughout the pandemic, the federal government continues to leverage all capabilities to support state, local, territorial and Tribal communities to prepare for, prevent and respond to increased incidence of COVID-19. That includes working with states, medical providers, businesses and other groups to expand awareness about updated COVID-19 vaccines, highly effective treatments and resources to stand up additional vaccination sites and other delivery options to make it easier and more convenient to get vaccinations and treatments;
- Offering resources and assistance to increase vaccinations and respond to a possible surge. Today, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra is sending a letter to all governors outlining key actions that he would like state leaders to take as they prepare for increased cases and hospitalizations this winter, and reminding them of federal supports that are available for their COVID-19 responses. This includes setting up additional mobile and pop-up vaccination sites, surge testing sites as well as Test to Treat sites where Americans can not only get tested for free, but also can get prescribed and dispensed safe, effective COVID-19 treatments right on site if they test positive and treatment is appropriate for them;
- Collaborating with communities to open pop-up and/or mobile vaccination sites. Communities across the nation are answering the call to expand vaccine access through the increased presence of mobile and pop-up vaccination clinics. This includes efforts in Los Angeles County to open up to 800 pop-up clinics per week; expanded use of mobile vaccination, testing and treatment units, as well as outbound vaccine and treatment calls to people age 65 and older, at-home administration of vaccines and free home delivery of treatments in New York City; and an increase in Chicago’s at-home vaccine administration program, which provides vaccines for up to 10 people per visit in their place of residence. The Administration has been engaging jurisdictions on the availability of federal resources to continue and increase these efforts, including through use of flexible single-dose vials, and will continue to engage state, local, Tribal and territorial leaders in the weeks ahead;
- Getting additional resources to community health centers and aging and disability networks to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts. The Administration for Community Living is awarding $125 million to support community-based organizations in the aging and disability networks to hold accessible vaccine clinics and provide in-home vaccinations, transportation and other supportive services to increase COVID-19 vaccinations for older adults and people with disabilities;
[Read more: DSN webinar explores how pharmacists can navigate Test to Treat programs]
- Preparing personnel and resources. Together with states, we will monitor the impacts of variants, cases and hospitalizations on our communities and – should it become necessary – escalate our support to states and communities. The Administration stands ready with federal capabilities to support urgent needs as they present, including through clinical staffing, personal protective equipment and supplies and technical assistance; and
- Readying clinical personnel for deployment as needed to support jurisdictions. The Administration continues to make federal teams and medical personnel available to alleviate strains on hospitals and healthcare systems through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response, the U.S. Public Health Services Corps and the Department of Defense. Federal agencies also can help offer support for states to take actions, such as providing more flexibility to hospitals balancing patients and staffing, exercising telemedicine options, pursuing staffing options such as contracts and employing the National Guard to help alleviate strains on health and medical facilities.