Amid the spread of the seemingly mild but more contagious Omicron variant and a potential COVID-19 spike over the holidays, President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday a plan to distribute 500 million at-home COVID-19 tests for people who request them.
While COVID-19 cases have risen nationwide in recent weeks, the Omicron variant became the dominant strain. The CDC reported this week that Omicron accounted for roughly 73% of cases in the U.S. The agency also recently endorsed a “test to stay” policy allowing close contacts of students with COVID-19 to continue attending in-person classes if they test negative, underscoring the government's focus on testing policies. Meanwhile, health authorities are authorizing the first antiviral pill for treating COVID-19.
As millions focus on fighting the pandemic, millions of others remain skeptical of vaccines or less worried about COVID-19, especially amid concerns about rare but fatal side effects of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and as studies suggest that Omicron is much less severe than other variants. Debates continue over the logic of getting vaccinated, the reasons for not doing it, and whether the government should enforce vaccinations.
In general, left- and center-rated media have concentrated more on Omicron concerns around the holidays, the Biden administration's plans for combatting the new variant, and the effort to vaccinate and test people effectively. Right-rated media have focused more on how vaccine mandates have induced staff shortages at some hospitals, and tend to paint Biden, health officials and COVID-19 restrictions in a more skeptical or negative light.
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Snippets from the Left
"Though the easy answer is to stay home, it's important to recognize how challenging the past year has been on families and the need to see loved ones around the holidays, said Akhil Bindra, a pulmonologist at the Cleveland Clinic. 'Being conscientious of that, there is a safe way to do it, but there's always some risk,' Bindra said."
"For Mr. Biden, the scramble to address the shortfall in the availability of testing is an uncomfortable parallel with the Trump administration’s inability to roll out testing at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. The Trump administration struggled with supply shortages and a president who complained that testing was driving up caseload reports and making him look bad."
Snippets from the Center
"The government will establish new testing sites and use the Defense Production Act to help manufacture tests. The first new federally supported testing site will open in New York this week. The new sites will add to 20,000 already available. White House officials said they’re working with Google so that people will be able to find them by searching 'free COVID test near me.'"
Americans are tired of Covid — and the official response to omicron has only created more frustration
"It’s possible the coming weeks will lead to a significant pullback. Still, that seems unlikely, particularly as the holidays approach and hospitalizations among vaccinated people continue to remain low. Nevertheless, responses to the virus are increasingly conflicting, with organizations taking new precautions as people plow forward with their daily lives as best they can."
Snippets from the Right
"On Tuesday, President Biden...told vaccinated Americans they can still embrace their holiday plans without risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms. But public health officials said Biden’s plan did not go far enough to slow the spread of the omicron variant. Scientists are worried that the Biden administration has resigned to the fact that the omicron variant will spread to both unvaccinated and vaccinated alike."
Omicron coverage reveals how the establishment, media keep us scared
New York Post (opinion)
"In countries such as the United States, with much higher rates of vaccination, the breakthrough infections from Omicron will be even milder. Omicron will be an ideal vehicle for achieving herd immunity, conferring protection without tears on the vast majority of the infected. The South African doctor who first reported the Omicron variant has declared herself 'astonished' by the world’s reaction to the new strain, which is 'out of all proportion to its risks.'"