CHICAGO — President Joe Biden is expected to promise to provide 500 million free at-home COVID-19 tests to Americans, among other measures meant to slow the spread of the virus’s Omicron variant.
Biden will give a speech at 1:30 p.m. Central — the same time Mayor Lori Lightfoot is expected to provide the city with a COVID-19 update — where he’s expected to announce the tests, as well as increasing support for hospitals and encouraging more people to get vaccinated and boosted.
Biden will say the federal government is buying 500 million rapid COVID-19 tests and will ship them to American households beginning in January, according to The Associated Press. He’d previously promised to start reimbursing Americans for COVID-19 tests they buy themselves, a plan that earned him criticism.
Biden will also say he can send another 1,000 troops with medical skills to hospitals that have been overwhelmed by the latest COVID-19 surge, according to the AP.
Biden is not expected to call for major lockdowns or similar measures, which were used at the start of the pandemic by some officials.
At the same time, Lightfoot is expected to announce the city will require some businesses to start checking patrons’ vaccination status come the new year.
The measures come as the nation is facing another major surge of COVID-19 cases powered by the Omicron variant, which is thought to be highly contagious. The variant was first detected in the United States Dec. 1, but it already makes up 73 percent of new cases in the country.
Chicago has already been struggling with a surge fueled by the Delta variant, with cases, hospitalizations and deaths rising in recent weeks. Officials have said they’re worried the Omicron variant will drive up cases, which would also lead to increases in hospitalizations and deaths.
The city’s already seen major upticks: Average new cases per day are up to 1,776, a 79 percent increase from a week ago. And an average of 10 Chicagoans are dying per day from COVID-19.
Researchers are still determining how effective vaccines are against the Omicron variant and if it is more or less severe than prior versions of the virus. Officials, including Arwady, have said they do expect currently available vaccines offer at least some protection from serious illness and death.
• In Illinois, about 7.6 million people — or 60.02 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state data.
• Across the state, 65,165 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.
• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 18,697,629 vaccine doses of the 21,092,625 provided to them.
• City data shows more than 1.7 million Chicagoans — or 63.7 percent of all residents — are fully vaccinated, and 70.7 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.
• Sixty-three Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19 since Monday.
• At least 27,291 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 3,110 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.
• The state reported 10,264 cases since Monday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 1,985,779.
• Since Monday, 179,269 tests were reported statewide. In all, 42,786,764 tests have been reported in Illinois.
• Illinois’ seven-day case positivity rate was at 5.7 percent. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests. It was at 5.5 percent Monday.
• Illinois’ seven-day test positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, was at 7.6 percent. It was at 7.1 percent Monday.
• As of Monday night, 845 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 438 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.
• In Chicago, 31 deaths were reported since Monday. There have been at least 6,176 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city is seeing an average of 10 people dying per day, a 51 percent increase from last week.
• Chicago has had 2,362 confirmed cases reported since Monday. It’s had a total of 375,373 confirmed cases. An average of 1,776 confirmed cases are being reported per day, up 79 percent from the week prior.
• Testing in Chicago is up 2 percent since a week ago.
• Chicago’s positivity rate was at 7.3 percent, up from 4.1 percent the week prior.
Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: