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Biden steps up COVID-19 fight with testing for travelers, coverage for home tests

By Clyde Hughes & Megan Hadley
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Biden steps up COVID-19 fight with testing for travelers, coverage for home tests
President Joe Biden announces a new strategy for fighting COVID-19 at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., on Thursday. Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 2 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden announced a five-step strategy Thursday to fight COVID-19 in the coming winter months -- including rigid testing for travelers entering the United States and insurers covering the cost of home tests.

Biden made the announcement at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

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The winter plan also includes encouraging booster shots for all adults, establishing family vaccine clinics where children and adults can get vaccinated together and an increase in surge response teams.

The new strategy comes amid the threat of a new mutation, the Omicron variant, which scientists are still trying to get a handle on.

RELATED COVID-19 vaccines spur weaker immune response to Delta variant, study finds

Biden said the two cases of the Omicron variant that have been reported in the United States are cause for concern, but not panic.

"We have the best tools in the world. We will fight this with science and speed, not with chaos and confusion. We enter this winter with strength," he said.

As part of President Joe Biden's strategy, insurers will be required to cover the cost of at-home coronavirus tests, the White House said. File Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI
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Travelers entering the United States will be required to have a COVID-19 test within 24 hours of departure. And a face mask requirement on domestic flights have public transportation is extended until March 18.

RELATED Minnesota reports second U.S. case of COVID-19 Omicron variant

Biden said 72% of American adults have been vaccinated, and as of Christmas Day, there will be safe vaccines for children age 5 and older.

The new strategy includes adding workplace protections to keep businesses open and employing rapid response teams in areas with rapidly rising cases.

The federal government will consider supplying treatment pills to help prevent coronavirus-related hospitalizations and deaths, Biden said.

RELATED COVID-19 vaccines less effective in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy

Last week, a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel recommended emergency authorization for the experimental COVID-19 pill molnupiravir from Merck, which has been shown to be effective as a treatment.

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