Biden administration set to battle omicron wave with 500 million free COVID-19 testing kits

WASHINGTON—The Biden administration will distribute 500 million free at-home Covid-19 testing kits to Americans and take steps to deploy federal medical personnel to overburdened hospitals this winter, as the Omicron variant spreads around the country. President Biden will outline the plan during a speech at the White House on Tuesday. His administration is grappling with how to publicly underscore the urgency surrounding the highly transmissible variant, while seeking to convey that the U.S. is better prepared to battle the pandemic than it was a year ago.

Mr. Biden is expected to stress that Americans should take the Omicron variant seriously but shouldn’t panic, according to administration officials. The president will tell vaccinated Americans who are following public health guidelines that they should feel comfortable spending the holidays with their families. Unvaccinated Americans, however, are at much greater risk of hospitalization and death, Mr. Biden will warn, according to the officials, who added that the administration is preparing for cases to keep rising. Even as parts of Europe have returned to previous pandemic-related restrictions including lockdowns and tightening border controls, Mr. Biden is expected to once again rule out the need for shutdowns or other tough measures. An expanded version of this report can be found at WSJ.com

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