With COVID’s Omicron variant spreading, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said the key to controlling it centers around the at-home tests now for sale across the country. Schumer praised President Biden for prepping a plan to be released on January 15th that will have insurance companies reimburse for the cost of an at-home test—but, he said, while we wait, he wants a surge of rapid at-home tests sent to New York community health centers and their mobile sites, across the state.
“While many portions of the country are waiting for the omicron variant to arrive, New York already has cases—but this doesn’t mean we should panic. It means we should be planning,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.
“You see, a key to controlling Omicron is the at-home test, where you can swab your own nose, follow simple steps, determine if you have COVID, and take the right steps thereafter. Right now, these at-home tests are pretty affordable across the country, but they’re not free, but they should be. So, I am asking for the feds to send a surge of these to New York CHCs and their mobile sites where they should come at no cost. We should be arming the public with at-home tests to stay ahead of this variant into the winter,” Schumer added.
Schumer urged for these at-home tests to be totally free, as in no fine print. He said people should be able to walk into a CHC or visit one of their mobile sites and pick up an at-home test free of charge. Schumer urged a surge of the at-home tests to New York, especially, saying that omicron is already here and that we must work now to contain its spread. Schumer said the funds to pay for these free tests have already been appropriated to HHS via the American Rescue Plan (ARP) he helped pass through Congress and the president signed into law.
Last week, the Biden administration announced its winter plan to beat back COVID. The administration will soon mandate insurers reimburse Americans for purchasing at-home tests. Three federal departments will issue the guidance for this action on Jan. 15. The guidance will stipulate that people who buy the tests will be able to seek reimbursement from their group health plan or health insurer and have it covered during the public-health emergency, according to the Wall Street Journal. The administration has authority to do this under legislation that Congress passed in March that required group health plans and issuers to cover diagnostic Covid-19 testing, the Journal reported.
In the meantime, Schumer, today, is saying that sending a surge of these at-home tests to New York can once again utilize the CHC infrastructure that made getting shots in arms successful during the earliest days of vaccine availability.
The Omicron variant has been detected in 11 states so far, and about 40 countries. Scientists are also still investigating the impact of the Omicron variant, how contagious it is, how easily it might spread, and more. Schumer, today, said this is exactly why a surge of at-home tests and a campaign to have people use them could make all the difference.
“We have this tool we didn’t have early on—an at-home test,” said Schumer. “It’s one of the keys to keeping this recovery going, and we ought to use them.”
According to the WHO, the most effective steps individuals can take to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus is to keep a physical distance of at least 6-feet; wear a well-fitting mask; open windows to improve ventilation; avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces; keep hands clean; cough or sneeze into a bent elbow or tissue, and get vaccinated.
There are more than 70 federal community health centers (CHC) with 800 sites throughout New York, according to the Community Health Care Association of NY.