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Biden Administration to Increase Access to COVID-19 Testing in Wake of Omicron Surge

NEW YORK – The Biden administration announced Tuesday several actions it was taking in response to the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant, including an effort to increase access to testing.

The administration said it would be launching new federal testing sites around the country as well as distributing some 500 million free COVID-19 rapid tests and employing the Defense Production Act to increase production of rapid tests.

The administration said it is creating a website where individuals can request free rapid tests, with initial delivery of these tests beginning in January 2022. The first of the new federal testing sites will launch this week in New York City.

Regarding its use of the DPA, the administration said that in the last week it has used the act to help two test makers get access to raw materials and equipment needed to produce tests, allowing one to double production of lab-based tests and the other to scale production of its over-the-counter and point-of-care tests.

The new steps come as the Omicron variant has become the dominant SARS-CoV-2 strain in the US, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accounting for 73 percent of all new infections. For about the past week, the number of COVID-19 cases has sharply increased across the country due to both Omicron, as well as the Delta variant, which had been the dominant SARS-CoV-2 strain.