Biden to pledge 500M free COVID-19 tests to counter omicron

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has announced plans to deliver 500 million free COVID-19 tests to Americans, increase support for hospitals and expand the availability of vaccines to confront a winter surge of coronavirus cases driven by the fast-spreading omicron variant.

Biden said in a speech to the nation Tuesday that it’s Americans’ “patriotic duty," as well as a wise medical step, to get vaccinated. He stressed the importance of getting vaccinated to protect from a wave of infections as Christmas approaches.

The world is facing a second straight holiday season with COVID-19, but scientists say vaccination should offer strong protections against severe illness and death. Biden’s top medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Biden was delivering “a stark warning of what the winter will look like” for unvaccinated Americans.