White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the first batch of the 500 million COVID-19 tests that President Joe Biden promised late last month will arrive later in January.
“We’re on track to start seeing movement on some of the awards through the RFP (request for proposals) this week,” she told reporters Tuesday. “The first delivery from manufacturers will start later this month. That’s our expectation.”
In a terse exchange, Psaki was asked by a CBS reporter about whether administration officials agree Biden has “lost control” over the pandemic response. “We would not,” Psaki said in response amid numerous questions from reporters during Tuesday’s briefing about the disease.
Biden started increasing U.S. testing efforts and capacity after pushback for not making at-home COVID-19 tests widely available ahead of the Omicron variant’s spread, which has driven up case numbers in the United States in recent days. At the same time, Americans have scrambled to obtain rapid antigen tests, which have become hard to find in some areas.
“We will put the website up and make it available so that people can order tests at that point in time,” Psaki added.
A reporter asked if Biden has acknowledged that vaccines may no longer protect the public from getting infected with the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus—only preventing death or hospitalizations. Psaki, like other federal officials, again called on people to get vaccinated.
“The step that’s most important that people can take to reduce the potential for hospitalization and death is to get vaccinated, get boosted,” Psaki responded. “He’s not telling anyone to accept anything. He’s just conveying to people what they can do to protect themselves.”
Psaki did not provide exact details on how soon the tests will be available to the general public. The administration, she added, is still in the process of finalizing the contracts and expects the first shipment from manufacturers to come soon.
The Omicron variant may account for 95.4 percent of recent CCP virus infections as of Jan. 1, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in an update on Tuesday. The previously dominant Delta variant now makes up about 4.6 percent, the CDC said.
Omicron, named as such by the World Health Organization (WHO), was first reported in southern Africa and Hong Kong in November and has swept around the world. There are signs, however, that the variant causes milder symptoms and possibly fewer hospitalizations.
A WHO official, Abdi Mahamud, told reporters Tuesday that more studies have suggested that Omicron infects the “the upper part of the body,” unlike previous variants. It means, Mahamud said, the variant is less likely to trigger less severe symptoms.
“It can be … good news, but we really require more studies to prove that,” Mahamud said.