As the omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to spread across the U.S., state leaders have ordered millions of COVID-19 rapid tests ahead of the new year.
The state of Connecticut plans to distribute three million at-home COVID-19 rapid tests and 6 million N95 face masks in an effort to protect its residents against the variant.
On Tuesday, Gov. Ned Lamont announced that he is calling up nearly 100 members of the Connecticut National Guard to do so.
BIDEN ADMIN’S PLAN TO DISTRIBUTE 500M COVID TESTS STARTING NEXT MONTH NOT NEARLY ENOUGH, HEALTH EXPERTS SAY
The first allocation to the general public will include the distribution of 500,000 iHealth kits, each containing two tests, with distribution running through next week. Another million iHealth kits will be given to K-12 schools statewide.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has granted emergency use authorization for the iHealth COVID-19 antigen rapid test.
The total cost of the three million tests is approximately $18.5 million, paid for through federal funding.
In addition, the Connecticut Department of Public Health is in the process of adding more testing sites.
“Connecticut is currently experiencing another surge in COVID-19 cases that is being driven mostly by the highly transmissible Omicron variant,” Lamont said in a statement. “As a result, the demand for tests has outpaced the supply of testing available through our statewide network of about 400 sites. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is likely to be a period of high transmission, and we have to get 2022 off to a good start by helping residents identify COVID-19 quickly and take those steps to isolate appropriately to curb any further spread.”
However, Lamont said in a statement Wednesday that shipping and warehouse delays had held up Connecticut’s anticipated shipment of COVID-19 at-home rapid tests.
Also on Wednesday, Connecticut topped 500,000 infections since the start of the pandemic and hospitalizations statewide have been pushed to more than 1,100 for the first time since January.
In nearby New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul said the same day that her administration wants to fully institute a “test to state program” to ensure the safety of children at schools.
“No one saw how much we need test kits, but we truly were ahead of this,” she told reporters. “We ordered 37 million tests to be available. They’re not all here yet. But every time a plane flies over, I’m saying: ‘Is that the one that’s got my supplies on it?’ Because we’re literally getting 500,000 here, another million here and we’re getting them out so they’ll be there when you need them to make sure your schools have everything they need.”
Hochul said New York – which has seen cases spike over the last couple of months – is preparing for a January surge and believes there will be a continuous spike in positive testing rates and hospitalizations.
CORONAVIRUS TESTING SITES PLAGUED WITH LONG WAITS AND LINES AS OMICRON SURGES: ‘OVERWHELMING’
New York City reported a record number of new confirmed cases on Tuesday, exceeding 39,500. More than 90% of the city’s adults have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.
The annual Times Square New Year’s Eve bash is still a “go,” though officials have scaled back the festivities.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 testing lines are blocks long and home tests are scarce for those searching drugstores.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the answer is to “double down on vaccinations” and that the city “is open.”
De Blasio announced Tuesday that New York will provide the city’s public schools with two million at-home test kits.
Vermont is planning to distribute 87,000 at-home test kits to parents and guardians for kids returning to school.
“I encourage families to take advantage of these rapid tests,” Gov. Phil Scott said in a Wednesday statement. “Testing your child before school starts gives you peace of mind and will slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. It also will help protect the most vulnerable and keep schools open, so kids can get the education they need and deserve.”
New COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have soared to their highest levels on record and the omicron-fueled surge is putting children in the hospital in near-record numbers – especially those who are unvaccinated.
During the week of Dec. 21-27, an average of 334 children 17 and under were admitted per day to hospitals with the coronavirus, a 58% increase from the week before, according to CDC data.
President Biden pledged to deliver 500 million free rapid home-testing kits, redouble vaccination and boosting efforts and increase support for hospitals.
“It’s the only responsible thing to do,” he said, of getting vaccinated. “Omicron is serious and potentially deadly business for unvaccinated people.”
The White House said Wednesday that the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services are “executing on an accelerated contracting timeline” and that the administration expects the contract to be completed late next week.
“That means that the first deliveries for manufacturers will start [in] January. We’ll set up a free and easy system, including a new website to get these tests out to Americans,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said. “We’re actively working to finalize that distribution mechanism, which includes a website where people will be able to order tests for free. And, we’ll share more details in the weeks ahead — days and weeks ahead.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.