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Biden's plan for fighting omicron includes free at-home COVID-19 tests, support for hospitals

The president announces new actions to protect Americans amid rising case numbers.

Carrie Mihalcik Senior Editor / News
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Carrie Mihalcik
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There was a long line at a COVID-19 testing site in New York City on Dec. 20.

Roy Rochlin/Getty Images
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced new measures aimed at fighting the COVID-19 pandemic as the US faces rising cases propelled by the omicron variant. Among the new actions, Biden announced increased support for hospitals, more pop-up vaccination sites in areas of high demand and a plan to distribute free, at-home rapid tests to Americans, according to the White House

The omicron variant is now the dominant coronavirus variant in the US, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While available research suggests omicron isn't causing more severe illness than the delta variant, health officials say it could make a large number of people sick at once, which would overwhelm health care systems. 

"Because omicron spreads so easily, we'll see some fully vaccinated people get COVID, potentially in large numbers," Biden said during remarks from the White House on Tuesday. He added that breakthrough cases are "highly unlikely" to lead to serious illness, but he encouraged Americans to remain vigilant and wear masks indoors and in public settings.

Biden also said Americans who've been fully vaccinated, especially those that've gotten a booster shot, should feel comfortable celebrating Christmas and the holidays with family and friends.

The White House said more than 73% of adults in the US are now fully vaccinated and more than 1 million booster doses are being administered each day, but also stressed that "unvaccinated individuals are at high risk of getting COVID-19, getting severely ill, and even dying."

On Tuesday, the administration unveiled plans to provide increased support to hospitals and health care systems, including deploying 1,000 service member, such as military doctors and nurses, to hospitals during January and February. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will also be directed to work with states to expand hospital capacity and to deploy ambulances and emergency medial teams, according to the White House. 

The administration's also plans to purchase 500 million at-home, rapid tests that can be distributed to Americans starting in January. The government plans to launch a website through which people can request these tests be delivered to their home for free, according to the White House. 

Biden also announced plans to set up additional COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites across the US. The president said the administration worked with Google to ensure people can find information on testing sites when they search for "free COVID test near me" using the tech giant's search engine. 

See also: The best home COVID-19 tests

Watch this: What to do if you lose your vaccination card, and how to never lose it again