In an effort to thwart the Omicron variant’s efforts of destruction, President Joe Biden announced more federal COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites and said that 500 million free at-home rapid tests will be available starting next month.

The measures include new pop-up vaccination clinics run by FEMA and federal testing sites starting this week. The federal measures will not be fully in place prior to Christmas.

He added a warning to unvaccinated people—who “have a significantly higher risk of ending up in the hospital or even dying” and “good reason to be concerned,” he said—and reassured the vaccinated that they can gather for the holidays.

“No this is not March of 2020,” Biden told reporters at the White House. “Two hundred million people are fully vaccinated, we’re prepared, we know more.”


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The president noted that even his predecessor, Donald Trump, received his booster. “Maybe one of the few things he and I agree on,” he said.

The Omicron variant now accounts for 73% of U.S. cases and is causing infections to double in 1.5 to 3 days, according to WHO. It’s not yet known whether it’s more dangerous than the Delta variant.

These breakthrough infections are rising among the 61% of the country’s fully vaccinated population, including the 30% who have gotten booster shots.

The comments come on the heels of some cities imposing stricter safety measures. Other local efforts include:

  • NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a $100 incentive for residents who get a COVID-19 vaccine booster at city-run sites before the end of the year.
  • NYC’s public hospitals will ban most visitors starting Wednesday. Only hospitalized infants and children, women in labor, and dying patients can have visitors, who must be fully vaccinated or show a negative COVID-19 test.
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted that all healthcare workers will be required to receive booster shots. More measures are expected Wednesday.
  • Chicago will require proof of COVID-19 vaccinations for entry to restaurants, bars, gyms and other indoor spaces starting January 3.

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