Fuck it, mask on.
Although the latest nightmare COVID variant, Omicron, has made it to California and soured our fantasies of a COVID-free winter, daddy Biden has a plan to keep us safe and the economy running. Instead of shutting everything down, the Biden administration will announce a series of measures this afternoon that include amping up booster shots, tightening travel-related testing, and reimbursing us for at-home tests that might keep us from having to put our lives on pause again.
Although the U.S. began allowing international travelers into the country again less than a month ago, Biden controversially banned travel from eight Southern African countries last week. But because Omicron has already reached large swaths of the world, the U.S. will now require all international travelers to be vaccinated and to show proof of a negative COVID test just one day before their flight to the states, per CNN.
Up until Omicron was discovered, vaccinated travelers were allowed to show proof of a negative test up to three days before leaving for the U.S., according to the CDC. As for domestic travel, the Biden administration is expected to extend mask mandates on trains, buses, and planes that were going to expire in January until March.
The Biden administration also plans to get booster shots to as many of the 100 million Americans who are eligible but who haven’t gotten theirs yet, according to the New York Times. This includes a large number of senior citizens, which the Biden administration plans to reach through a combination of education efforts, outreach and collab with the AARP to offer free rides to vaccination sites.
Biden will also prioritize getting kids aged 5 to 11, who became eligible for the vaccine last month, inoculated. On top of all that, the administration plans to launch “family vaccination clinics,” which will offer vaccines to entire families at once, per CNN.
Beyond vaccines, the Biden administration is planning to significantly increase the amount of free available COVID tests. Private insurance companies will be required to cover the cost of at-home tests, whose prices range from $10-25 per test. It also plans to offer over 50 million free tests for those not covered by private insurance.
Although a new variant that evades some vaccine protection is definitely bad news, it seems like we are taking the right steps towards mitigating its potential impacts. For now, Dr. Fauci says that changing our holiday plans if we’re vaccinated isn’t necessary; hopefully, the measures of the Biden admin will prove to be the right amount at the right time.