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Biden promises to purchase another 500M COVID-19 tests, provide 'high-quality' masks free of charge

President Joe Biden
Posted at 9:45 AM, Jan 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-13 11:15:06-05

President Joe Biden on Thursday announced that his administration would purchase an additional 500 million at-home COVID-19 tests as the White House prepares to launch a website that would allow Americans to order them directly to their home free of charge.

Thursday's announcement means that the Biden administration has pledged to purchase a total of 1 billion tests in the weeks and months ahead.

Biden's comments come as the U.S. faces record spread of the virus due to the highly contagious omicron variant. The new surge has sent people to the hospital at near-record levels across the country.

In response to the new surge in cases, Biden has already instituted a rule that will require insurance companies to cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests that goes into effect Saturday.

Also, this week, the White House announced it would begin providing 10 million tests a month to schools across the country, though such a commitment would only cover a fraction of the 50 million students, faculty and staff members at schools across the country.

Biden also promised Thursday that the White House would release a plan next week to provide "high-quality" masks to Americans free of charge. In recent days, top White House health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci have been encouraging Americans to consider changing out their cloth masks for surgical-grade face coverings, like N95 masks.

Fauci said Tuesday that Americans should "get the highest quality mask that you can tolerate and that's available to you."