WASHINGTON, Dec 2 (Reuters) - The Biden administration is
seeking to ramp up its pandemic response amid the official
arrival of the Omicron coronavirus variant, laying out a plan on
Thursday to make at-home COVID-19 tests available free of
charge, accelerate its push for booster shots and tightening
rules for travelers.
Below are some of the key measures in the plan, which U.S.
President Joe Biden will address later on Thursday:
FREE AT-HOME, OVER-THE-COUNTER TESTS
Private health insurance companies will be required to
reimburse customers for the cost of over-the-counter at-home
COVID-19 tests, the White House said, with the administration
issuing federal guidance by Jan. 15.
For the uninsured, at-home tests will be made available at
no charge at community testing sites, it added.
At-home tests approved by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration include Abbott Laboratories' BinaxNOW,
OraSure Technologies Inc's InteliSwab, ACON
Laboratories' FlowFlex and Ellume's home test, among others.
WIDER PUSH FOR BOOSTER SHOTS
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services along with
pharmacy companies will launch a public information campaign to
encourage booster shots, following the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention's (CDC) revised guidance this week
recommending all adults get a booster.
Pharmacies will take additional steps to increase vaccine
availability, including weekend and evening hours, according to
the White House.
The Medicare insurance program for those over 65 and the
disabled and the Medicaid program for low-income people will
also make outreach efforts to encourage shots.
TIGHTER TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS
The U.S. CDC plans to require inbound international
passengers be tested for COVID-19 within one day of departure,
regardless of their vaccination status, sources separately told
Reuters. Mask requirements on airplanes, trains and public
transportation vehicles also will continue through March 18.
The new one-day testing requirement would apply to U.S.
citizens as well as foreign nationals and could take effect as
early as next week.
CDC officials also have ordered airlines to disclose
passenger names and other information for those who have
recently been in eight southern African countries that
identified early Omicron cases and will give it to local and
state public health agencies, according to documents seen by
MORE FAMILY VACCINATION CLINICS
The administration plans to launch hundreds of family
vaccination clinics nationwide that will allow eligible parents,
grandparents and children to get initial vaccines and booster
shots with a "one-stop-shop," the White House said.
Community health centers will host the clinics throughout
December. Mobile health clinics will also be deployed across the
country, starting in Washington and New Mexico, according to the
plan. Retail pharmacies, including CVS Health Corp and
Rite Aid Corp will also start allowing family-based
appointment scheduling, the White House added.
INCREASING TREATMENT SUPPLIES
Biden will announce plans to ensure any new COVID-19
treatment pills approved by U.S. regulators will be "equitably
accessible to all Americans, regardless of their income or their
zip code," the White House said.
The administration is also working to secure 13 million
doses of antiviral courses, it added.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey
Editing by Bill Berkrot)