Manchin and Sinema demand to know why Biden ‘failed to increase access to at-home tests’


Now Manchin and Sinema turn on Biden over COVID: Democrat senators demand to know why president ‘failed to take significant steps earlier to increase access to at-home tests’ after blocking him on filibuster reform

  • Democratic Senators Joe Machin and Krysten Sinema and other democrats in demanding to know why Biden failed to rollout at-home testing earlier
  • They were joined by Democratic Senators Machin, Sinema, Jacky Rosen, Mark Kelly and Jon Ossoff who said the president failed to be proactive
  • The administration reportedly rejected a plan to produce more than 700 tests in October as Biden now vows to distribute 1 billion free tests
  • But it will take 7-12 days to ship out the first 420 million tests, longer than the five-day isolation period, the administration said
  • The demand for answers comes after Machin and Sinema blocked Biden’s filibuster reform, halting his hopes of passing a voting rights bill


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Democratic Senators Joe Machin and Krysten Sinema, who blocked Joe Biden‘s filibuster reform earlier this week, have now joined other Democrats in demanding to know why the president did not roll out nationwide distribution of at-home COVID tests earlier in the pandemic. 

In a letter sent to the nation’s COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeffery Zients, Democratic Senators Machin, Sinema, Jacky Rosen, Mark Kelly and Jon Ossoff asked ‘why the Administration failed to take more significant steps earlier to increase access to at-home tests.’ 

‘Across America, there are lines for city blocks long to get COVID testing, signs in pharmacies saying they are out of rapid tests, hospitals operating under crisis standards of care, health care staff and first responders falling ill, and millions of people who are exhausted from the toll this pandemic has had,’ the senators wrote. 

‘While we fully recognize the productive steps this Administration has taken to encourage vaccination, ensure ready access to vaccines, and increase options to treat the virus, far too many measures – such as increasing access to home-based testing – have been reactive, rather than proactive.’ 

Sen. Joe Machin

Sen. Joe Machin

Sen. Krysten Sinema

Sen. Krysten Sinema

Democratic Senators  Joe Machin (left) and Krysten Sinema joined three other colleagues in demanding answers about the nation’s COVID response plan from the White House 

It is the senators latest rebuke against Biden, pictured leaving the White House to go to Delaware on Saturday night, after they blocked his filibuster reform

It is the senators latest rebuke against Biden, pictured leaving the White House to go to Delaware on Saturday night, after they blocked his filibuster reform

It is the senators latest rebuke against Biden, pictured leaving the White House to go to Delaware on Saturday night, after they blocked his filibuster reform

The senators urged the White House to do better in their COVID response plan, present that plan to Congress and request additional funds if needed to contain the pandemic. 

It comes as Biden, who is spending another weekend in Delaware, vowed that his administration would procure one billion at-home rapid tests to Americans free of charge amid the Omicron surge. 

The Biden Administration said it would start sending out at-home COVID tests from a new government web site on Wednesday – but with current wait times, it would take between 7 and 12 days for shipment.

The administration has currently contracted for more than 420 million home tests kits, a senior administration official told reporters on a press call Friday. The tests will be free to the American public, with each household able to order up to four of them.

The U.S. Postal Service will be providing first class package delivery.

But the senators said the plan was likely too little too late amid nationwide testing shortages and reports that the White House rejected a plan to produce 732 million test per month back in October, The New York Post reported. 

The senators wrote: ‘The Administration either knew or should have known that testing shortages were occurring across the country over the past several months, and with the full expectation that the virus would likely mutate into a new variant steps to increase testing access should have happened before the current wave hit, not several weeks into the surge, with resources still not available until later this month or beyond.’  

There has been a nationwide surge in demand for tests amid the Omicron variant

There has been a nationwide surge in demand for tests amid the Omicron variant

There has been a nationwide surge in demand for tests amid the Omicron variant

BIDEN’S PLAN TO SEND OUT ONE BILLION TESTS: A BREAKDOWN

  • Website to order free tests will go online Wednesday January 19
  •  Tests will ‘typically’ ship within seven to 10 days of ordering
  • Households can order four each
  • Testing kits will be sent through the United States Postal Service in a First Class Package.
  • White House will ‘to ensure this program reaches our hardest-hit and highest-risk communities’.
  • Health insurers will cover eight at-home test per person from Saturday.
  • A family of four, therefore, will be able to have 32 tests covered.
  • 10 million tests are going out to schools to keep them open. 
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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had she previously mocked the idea of sending out at-home tests nationwide on December 6. 

‘Then what happens if you — if every American has one test? How much does that cost, and then what happens after that?,’ she said at the time. 

Psaki was slammed by medical professionals for appearing to mock the idea. 

Other nations, including those in Europe and Asia, send out at-home, free tests. 

‘Should I have included that additional context – again and that answer is yes,’ Psaki said after Biden announced an initial rollout of 500 million test in mid December. 

‘Going back I wish I would have done that.’

The nationwide at-home testing plan comes as the US continues to see surges in cases due to the Omicron variant. 

The nation reported 776,455 new cases in the past day after hitting a record 1,364,418 daily cases on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

While death are trending lower, the US reported 1,875 deaths on Wednesday. 

More than 63 percent of those eligible are fully vaccinated against COVID, and at least 78 percent have gotten at least one dose.  

 

The senators’ letter comes on the same day Biden met with Machin and Sinema to try and stop them from blocking his filibuster reform in order to getting a voting rights bill passed. 

Biden spent over an hour with Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill Thursday to try and convince Manchin and Sinema to support removing the filibuster for voting rights legislation.

Sinema dealt a death blow before that meeting when she went to the Senate floor to deliver a defiant defense of the legislative tool.

Manchin waited until after the meeting to issue a lengthy statement explaining his opposition to killing the filibuster.

‘I will not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster,’ he said. ‘The filibuster plays an important role in protecting our democracy from the transitory passions of the majority and respecting the input of the minority in the Senate.’

Manchin’s blow capped off a tough 48 hours for the Biden administration.

Besides the voting legislation loss on Thursday, the Supreme Court struck down Biden’s testing or vaccine mandate for businesses with over 100 employees. On Wednesday, inflation hit a 40-year high of 7 per cent and a Quinnipiac poll found the president’s approval rating at an all-time low of 33 per cent.

BIDEN’S PLAN TO DISTRIBUTE ONE BILLION TESTS: FULL FACT SHEET  

The Biden Administration to Begin Distributing At-Home, Rapid COVID-19 Tests to Americans for Free

The Biden Administration is Buying One Billion Tests to Give to Americans for Free; Online Ordering of a Half-Billion Tests Begins on January 19th; Builds on Significant Actions to Expand Testing Capacity and Increase Access to Free Testing

Testing is an important tool to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Public health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that Americans use at-home tests if they begin to have symptoms, at least five days after coming in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, or are gathering indoors with a group of people who are at risk of severe disease or unvaccinated.

To help ensure Americans have tests on hand if a need arises, the Biden Administration is purchasing one billion at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests to give to Americans for free. A half-billion tests will be available for order on January 19th and will be mailed directly to American households.

There will be free tests available for every household, and to promote broad access, the initial program will allow four free tests to be requested per residential address. Starting January 19th, Americans will be able to order their tests online at COVIDTests.gov, and tests will typically ship within 7-12 days of ordering.

To ensure equity and access for all Americans, the Administration will also launch a call line to help those unable to access the website to place orders, and work with national and local community-based organizations to support the nation’s hardest-hit and highest-risk communities in requesting tests.

In addition to this new program, there are many other options for Americans to get tested. There are now over 20,000 free testing sites across the nation, including four times as many pharmacies participating in the federal pharmacy free testing program as there were in January 2021, as well as federal surge free testing sites, with more free testing sites opening each week. Millions of free, at-home COVID-19 tests have been delivered to thousands of community health centers and rural health clinics to distribute to their patients, with more delivered each week. In addition, the Administration provided schools $10 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to get tests to K-12 school districts. And, the Administration invested nearly $6 billion in ARP funding to cover free testing for uninsured individuals, and support testing in correctional facilities, shelters for people experiencing homelessness, and mental health facilities.

Just this week, the Administration also announced that starting January 15th, private health insurance companies will be required to cover at-home COVID-19 tests for free—and made an additional 10 million COVID-19 tests available to schools nationwide, each month.

Since January 2021, the Administration has taken significant action to dramatically increase the nation’s overall COVID-19 testing supply, the number of tests authorized for use in the U.S., and the number of places where Americans can get a test, while lowering costs for consumers and increasing access to free tests.

This comprehensive approach has produced important results: Today, there are nine at-home, rapid tests on the market in the U.S.—up from zero when the President took office. In December, there were more than 300 million at-home, rapid tests available in the U.S. market, up from 24 million in August—a more than 10-fold rise. This month, the number of at-home, rapid tests available to the U.S. market will rise to 375 million—in addition to the free tests available through COVIDTests.gov.

Distributing At-Home, Rapid COVID-19 Tests to American Homes for Free: This program will ensure that Americans have at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests available in the weeks and months ahead—in addition to the number of other ways they can get tested. The Administration is quickly completing a contracting process for the unprecedented purchase of one billion at-home, rapid tests to distribute as part of this program. The Department of Defense, in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services, has already awarded several of the contracts that will result from this process—with over 420 million tests already under contract. Given the incredible volume of tests being procured and the diversity of manufacturers, additional contracts will continue to be awarded over the coming weeks.

Ordering Process: Starting on January 19th, Americans will be able to order a test online at COVIDTests.gov. To ensure broad access, the program will limit the number of tests sent to each residential address to four tests. Tests will usually ship within 7-12 days of ordering.

Distribution and Delivery Process: The Administration will partner with the United States Postal Service to package and deliver tests to Americans that want them. All orders in the continental United States will be sent through First Class Package Service, with shipments to Alaska, Hawaii, and the U.S. Territories and APO/FPO/DPO addresses sent through Priority Mail.

Ensuring Equity and Reaching Hardest-Hit Communities: The Administration is taking a number of steps to ensure this program reaches our hardest-hit and highest-risk communities. This includes prioritizing processing orders to households experiencing the highest social vulnerability and in communities that have experienced a disproportionate share of COVID-19 cases and deaths, particularly during this Omicron surge; launching a free call line, so that Americans who have difficulty accessing the internet or need additional support can phone-in orders for their tests; and, working with national and local organizations with deep experience serving communities of color, people living with disabilities, and other high-risk communities to serve as navigators, raise awareness about the program, and help people submit requests.

The Biden Administration continues acting aggressively to further increase equitable access to free COVID-19 testing for all Americans, as testing needs arise. This includes:

Requiring Health Insurers to Cover the Cost of At-Home COVID-19 Tests Starting January 15th: On Monday, the Administration announced that, starting January 15th, private insurance companies will be required to cover at-home COVID-19 tests. This means consumers with private health insurance coverage will be able to get these tests for free. Insurance companies and health plans are required to cover eight free at-home tests per covered individual per month. That means a family of four, all on the same plan, would be able to get 32 of these tests covered by their health plan per month. As part of the requirement, the Administration is strongly incentivizing plans and insurers to allow people to get these tests directly through preferred pharmacies or retailers with no out-of-pocket costs, with the plan or insurer covering the cost upfront, eliminating the need for people to submit reimbursement claims.

• Making 10 Million More Tests Available to Schools Nationwide: On Wednesday, the Administration took new actions to increase access to COVID-19 testing in schools. This includes increasing the number of COVID-19 tests available to schools by 10 million per month to help schools safely remain open and implement screening testing and test-to-stay programs—which will allow schools to double the volume of testing they were performing in November 2021—and supporting free testing access for students, school staff, and families through federal testing sites. These actions double down on the Administration’s commitment to keeping all schools safely open for full-time in-person learning, and build on the historic investments the Administration has already made to expand school testing, including providing states $10 billion in American Rescue Plan funding to support COVID-19 screening testing for teachers, staff, and students and $130 billion in American Rescue Plan funding that schools can use on COVID-19 testing. In addition to these resources, at the President’s direction, FEMA has been providing states, Tribes, and territories 100 percent federal reimbursement to support COVID-19 testing, including at schools. There was no federal support for testing in schools prior to the start of the Administration.

• Standing Up New Federal Surge Free Testing Sites: To help states and communities that need additional testing capacity as they battle Omicron, the Administration has rapidly stood up many new, federal free testing sites across the nation over the past several weeks. Already, there are 18 accessible sites operating in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Washington D.C.—with approximately 20 additional sites opening soon. These new federal sites have been effective in ensuring our hardest-hit and high-risk communities have equitable access to testing, with initial data showing that over three in four tests at the New York and New Jersey sites—sites that have been open the longest—have been administered to people of color.

These actions build on the significant steps the Administration has taken since Day One on testing to:

• Increase Overall Testing Supply in the U.S.: Starting last February, the Administration has used the Defense Production Act, industrial mobilization and advance purchase commitments to ramp up supply of testing, including at-home, rapid tests. This includes $3 billion in advance purchase commitments this Fall, which allowed domestic testing manufacturers to increase production, add factory lines, increase staffing, and move up manufacturing timelines. As a result, the U.S. went from 24 million at-home, rapid tests on the market in August, to 46 million in October, to 100 million in November, to over 300 million in December, to 375 million in January. This is on top of the work the Administration has done to increase capacity for lab-based COVID-19 testing; the U.S. is now conducting more lab-based tests per capita than many peer countries, including Germany, Canada, and Japan.

• Increase the Number of Tests Authorized in the U.S.: In March, to bring more at-home, rapid tests to market, the Administration worked to create a new, streamlined pathway for manufacturers to more quickly receive authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their tests. This accelerated pathway has been successfully used by at least six manufacturers this year. In addition, using resources from the American Rescue Plan, the Administration launched a new, innovative partnership between NIH and FDA last October to help manufacturers further accelerate authorization. The first two tests to use this pathway were authorized in December—weeks, if not months, ahead of schedule. These actions have paid off: When the President took office, there were zero at-home, rapid tests on the market. Today, there are nine on the market. This gives consumers more options and increases competition to lower prices.

• Increase the Number of Places to Get Tested in the U.S.: Since January 2021, the Administration has more than quadrupled the number of pharmacies participating in the federal program for in-store testing—from 2,500 to over 10,000. At the President’s direction, FEMA has provided states, Tribes, and territories with 100 percent reimbursement for a range of testing costs, including state-run testing sites, since January 2021. Overall, there are now over 20,000 federally-supported free testing sites nationwide, with more pharmacies joining the federal free testing program each week. In addition, the Administration has stood up new federal free surge testing sites in areas of need, with more opening each week.

• Increase Access to Free Testing in the U.S.: From the start, the Administration has taken significant action to reduce the cost of testing and increase access to free testing. Last February, the Administration required insurers to cover provider-ordered testing for free, including for asymptomatic individuals. The Administration also acted to ensure Medicaid programs cover all COVID-19 testing, and invested nearly $5 billion to cover testing costs for uninsured individuals—resulting in over 47 million tests covered. In addition to expanding the number of free testing sites to over 20,000 nationwide, the Administration delivers 2.5 million tests to long-term care facilities each week, and also launched a program to distribute 50 million free at-home tests to thousands of locations, including community health centers and rural health clinics that serve our hardest-hit and highest-risk communities. The announcements made today and earlier this week build on this work and will further ensure all Americans have equitable access to free testing. 

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