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Biden’s Plan For Stalling Omicron Includes Free At-Home COVID-19 Tests, More Vaccinations

Biden is also calling on employers to give paid time off to workers so they can get their booster shot.

President Joe Biden.
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CHICAGO — People could be reimbursed for at-home COVID-19 tests in the future, among other measures being rolled out by President Joe Biden to fight another surge in cases.

The president announced his plans Thursday to try to limit the spread of the Omicron variant, which is thought to be extremely contagious and which has been found in the United States. The virus is still being studied to determine what risks it could pose.

Biden’s plan would have people with private insurance be reimbursed for at-home tests, which have been hard to come by and expensive at times, according to The New York Times. The free at-home tests could be available in January under his plan.

The federal government will also push again to get more people vaccinated, especially children 5-11 who recently became eligible for the shots. Biden’s administration will hold “hundreds of family vaccination clinics” so people can get vaccinated and get a booster shot, according to the Times report.

Biden’s plan would also encourage people to get their booster shots, with part of the effort seeing the administration team with AARP to provide free rides to the shots for older people, according to The Times.

Biden is also calling on employers to give paid time off to workers so they can get their booster shot.

And the government will also require people traveling from other countries to the United States to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours before their departure.

Locally, officials have said they are keeping a close eye on the variant but don’t expect to impose more restrictions in the near future.

Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the city’s health department, said she expects to see Omicron cases detected in Chicago “very, very shortly,” and she’d be “Very surprised” if it’s not already in the city.

But it’s too soon to say how concerned people should be about Omicron, she said Tuesday.

“The question is not can we detect it. The question is what is our response,” she said. “Vaccinating is, by far, the most important thing. Boosters also important … .”

Even without Omicron, Chicago has struggled with its coronavirus outbreak in recent weeks. Cases, positivity rates and deaths have risen sharply as the weather has cooled.

Vaccinations:

• In Illinois, about 7.4 million people — or 58.16 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state data.

• Across the state, 44,992 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.

• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 17,408,457 vaccine doses of the 20,172,205 provided to them.

• City data shows more than 1.6 million Chicagoans — or 61.4 percent of all residents — are fully vaccinated, and 68.5 percent of all Chicagoans have gotten at least one shot.

Everyone 5 and older is eligible to get vaccinated in Chicago.

COVID-19 vaccinations are free and do not require insurance. Anyone can call the city’s coronavirus hotline at 312-746-4835 to get more information on how and where to get vaccinated in their community.

The numbers:

• Forty Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19 since Wednesday.

• At least 26,499 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 2,978 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

• The state reported 11,524 cases since Wednesday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 1,827,518.

• Since Wednesday, 231,876 tests were reported statewide. In all, 39,461,221 tests have been reported in Illinois.

• Illinois’ seven-day case positivity rate was at 4.7 percent. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests. It was at 4.4 percent Wednesday.

• Illinois’ seven-day test positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, was at 5.7 percent. It was at 5.6 percent Wednesday.

• As of Wednesday night, 505 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 214 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.

• In Chicago, six deaths was reported since Wednesday. There have been at least 6,018 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city has said its data is likely under-reporting deaths due to a technical issue that workers are trying to fix.

• Chicago has had 1,742 confirmed cases reported since Wednesday. It’s had a total of 346,169 confirmed cases. An average of 457 confirmed cases are being reported per day, down 26 percent from the week prior.

• Testing in Chicago is down 28 percent since a week ago.

• Chicago’s positivity rate was at 3.6 percent, up from 3 percent the week prior.

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