The Biden administration is launching federally run COVID-19 testing sites in New York City and other areas overwhelmed by demand as the Omicron variant causes record numbers of new coronavirus cases.
The feds also are mobilizing 1,000 military members to help overwhelmed hospitals and setting up a website to distribute via mail 500 million free at-home rapid tests.
President Biden will announce the steps in a 2:30 p.m. Tuesday speech as he seeks to calm mounting panic about the more contagious variant that’s caused many “breakthrough” infections even among people who are vaccinated.
“The president will announce that the federal government will set up new federal testing sites around the country. The first of these will be set up in New York City before Christmas,” a senior administration official told reporters.
“We will actually have several of those — the first several open in New York City before the Christmas holidays. And we’re going to continue to add sites based on where states and communities have capacity constraints and where the state and local public health officials request our assistance.”
It’s not immediately clear where in New York City the sites will be located.
Since last week, New Yorkers have had to stand in line for hours to wait for a free city-provided coronavirus test.
The beleaguered test sites at times turned away people who spent long stretches in line for documentation of a negative test for travel, to attend events, or to get peace of mind before seeing family.
The military members, meanwhile, will be deployed to hospitals to prevent them from being overwhelmed if nurses and doctors are sickened by Omicron.
“The president is directing [Defense] Secretary [Lloyd] Austin to mobilize 1,000 members of our military — these are doctors, nurses, medics and other military medical personnel — to deploy to overburdened hospitals in January and February,” the federal official said.
“God willing, we will not need all of these servicemen and -women. But if we do, they are ready and they are mobilized.”