Just when the U.S. opened its borders to international travelers, the Omicron variant started to plague the nation, with one-third of the 55 U.S. states identifying at least one patient infected with the new variant of concern.
Although the cases of Omicron are not yet alarmingly high, the Biden administration is beginning to pan out its strategies to combat the new variant’s spread and stop it from dominating the country. The administration’s proposed plans cover booster shots, home testing, and international travel restrictions and requirements.
Booster Shots Now More Necessary
Vaccine booster shots are beginning to be administered at a slow place for those whose initial doses have already lapsed six months. But only a small portion of the U.S. population is eligible for booster jabs, considering that over 30% of its citizens still remain unvaccinated against COVID-19.
The Omicron variant, however, has stressed the urgency of getting vaccinated, and further strengthening immunity with a booster shot. The U.S. government is creating plans to speed up vaccine booster drives and double its citizens’ immunity against Omicron.
New Requirements for International Travelers
When international travel to the U.S. was permitted once again in early November, international travelers were required to present proof of complete vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test result within three days from their date of departure.
Because of initial speculations that the Omicron variant is far more contagious and fast-spreading, the U.S. plans to require international travelers to have their COVID-19 tests administered in a shorter time span of one day prior to departure. This is mandatory for both vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers.
In addition to this, mask-wearing is also required in public places and modes of transportation, including airplanes, trains, and other public vehicles until March 18, 2021.
Free COVID-19 Home Testing for All
Recognizing that the quick identification of the Omicron variant is crucial to managing and limiting its spread, the Biden administration also plans to make COVID-19 home testing kits free for all. In line with this, the U.S. government will require that private health insurers reimburse their customers for 100% of the cost of over-the-counter testing kits.
For the benefit of uninsured individuals, health care centers and rural clinics will also be required to make COVID-19 home testing kits available and free.
Going Back to the Basics
COVID-19 is proving to be well adept at continuously evolving. But how we as a nation stop it will always go back to the basics. No matter how much COVID-19 evolves and develops, we can stop it with the health and safety protocols that we’ve heard of time and time again. Wear your masks, avoid crowded spaces, stay home when you can, and wash your hands frequently.