They're calling it the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. History.
The White House announced that they will be giving away 400 million nonsurgical N95 masks for free to the public. This came days after the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention controversially updated its mask guidance that acknowledged that cloth masks do not offer as much protection against the virus as surgical masks or respirators.
The N95 masks would begin shipping to pharmacies and health centers by the end of the week, and first shipments would be available to the public by the end of next week. Full implementation is expected by early February. However, there is concern from healthcare administrators that too much supply given to the public may cause shortages in hospitals where the top grade PPE is needed most.
Meanwhile, the federal government has also launched their new website, covidtests.gov, aimed at giving four home test kits for free for every single American household. This in response to a high demand for test kits that continue to fly off the shelves of pharmacies, and criticisms that the U.S. is still not testing enough to help slow the spread of Omicron.
On the eve of his one-year anniversary at the White House, President Joe Biden, still pestered by criticisms his government is not doing enough to fight off the pandemic, insisted that the U.S. is in a better place.
"It's been a year of challenges, but it's also been a year of enormous progress. We went from two million people being vaccinated at the moment I was sworn in, to 210 million Americans being fully vaccinated today," Biden pointed out.
He however admits that a lot has yet to be done. "The Covid-19 is not going to give up and accept things; it's just not going to go away immediately. But I'm not going to give up and accept things as they are now. Some people may call what's happening now 'the new normal.' I call it a job not yet finished. It will get better. We're moving toward a time when Covid-19 won't disrupt our daily lives, where Covid-19 won't be a crisis, but something to protect against and a threat. Look, we're not there yet, but we will get there."
In the last few weeks, rising cases have caused major disruption, with students and teachers walking out, and workforce strained on some public utility infrastructure in some major cities. The Omicron surge may be slowing down in cities that were hit first like New York, Chicago, and Washington, DC, but cases are still increasing in many other states like Utah, Ohio, and Florida. The US has showed a seven-day average of more than 750,000 new daily cases, a 38% increase from the last 14 days.