The Biden administration has escalated its omicron response as the world eyes a potential slowdown in COVID-19, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).
Omicron falling: There are some signs that the rates of omicron have begun to plateau and may soon subside. In the Northeast United States, where the variant struck early, the pace of infections has shown signs of slowing down. In the United Kingdom, the omicron wave appears to be diminishing, and other countries in Europe are anticipating a similar decline in infections.
Administration actions: The Biden administration announced two actions this week designed to help Americans weather omicron’s continuing impact, which Input previously featured in top headlines:
- Free tests: On Tuesday, the Biden administration launched covidtests.gov a day earlier than planned, providing a hub where Americans can order free COVID-19 rapid tests to their home. Tests will begin shipping at the end of the month, according to the U.S. Postal Service.
- Free masks: The administration also announced plans to make 400 million N95 masks available at no cost to Americans at local pharmacies and community health centers nationwide. According to experts, N95 masks are significantly more effective at blocking the virus—and especially the more transmissible omicron variant—than ordinary cloth masks.
A note of caution: While there are hopeful signs that the latest wave of COVID-19 is beginning to recede, infections and caseloads are still high in the United States and around the world. The seven-day average in the U.S. for new confirmed cases sat at about 800,000 infections a day last week, which is a record high, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Italy reported its highest number of daily infections, and infection rates in France are higher than last week, though admissions to intensive care units are falling. Daily cases in Germany are at a new high, with hospitalization rates expected to rise as infections mount.