As of Thursday, Americans can begin ordering free COVID quick test kits over the mail, according to a statement from the US government.
The administration started the campaign due to a spike in flu-related illnesses from indoor gatherings over the holidays. COVIDtests.gov, which will begin distributing online orders on December 19, allows citizens to purchase four more Covid-19 tests.
Senior government authorities kindly request that individuals order the free test kits to see if they are infected with the virus before visiting their relatives during the holidays. This is because family reunions will occur around Christmas, which may increase the chance of respiratory illnesses being transferred.
This is the fourth time this year that free mass-distribution quick test kits have been given away. As a result of Congress rejecting requests for more cash to continue the issue, the White House stopped the distribution in September. However, in light of what scientists and health professionals call the tripledemic, the Biden administration attempted to get increased money for the program.
“We know that the virus will circulate more quickly and easily as folks gather indoors for the winter holiday season,” an official said.
“We’re facing an onslaught of three viruses — COVID, RSV and influenza. All simultaneously. We’re calling this a tripledemic,” said Vanderbilt University infectious disease specialist Dr. William Schaffner.
“Intensive care units are at or above capacity in every children’s hospital in the United States. So it’s scary for parents,” said Amy Knight, the Children’s Hospital Association president.
“Influenza has hit the southeastern United States. Then, it moved into the Southwest. Then, it’s going up the East Coast and into the Midwest with some ferocity,” Schaffner added.
“These holiday celebrations, with all their travel and close contact, usually function as virus accelerators. We’re spending a lot of time with each other. We’re laughing and breathing deeply. And that’s an ideal environment for these respiratory viruses to spread to others,” Schaffner warned.
Health facilities affected by Covid and other illnesses
Hospitals around the country saw a surge in patients after Thanksgiving. According to officials, in hospitals, people with respiratory illnesses make up more than 80% of the patient population. Hospitals were harmed by the increase in patients since they continue to face staffing issues and financial problems. While 120,000 people continue to stay in hospital beds, many have already passed away from terrible circumstances.
“Workforce shortages have not only made it more challenging for hospitals. But also have diminished the number of patients who can be cared for in nursing homes and other post-acute care settings,” said Nancy Foster, the vice president for patient safety in the American Hospital Association.
“Thus, patients are spending more time in hospitals, awaiting discharge to the next level of care and limiting our ability to make a bed available to a patient who truly needs to be hospitalized,” she added.
“The rates are higher because we are seeing patients with the flu in many parts of the country, and that has brought a lot of older adults and some young children into the hospitals. Additionally, RSV is filling pediatric beds and cribs along with patients who are sicker now due to putting off care during Covid-19, which has required more intensive and complex care,” she said.
“Flu activity is high right now and continuing to increase. The good news is that the vaccines this year are well-matched to the currently circulating viruses, and there is still time to get vaccinated,” said CDC’s influenza division epidemiologist Lynnette Brammer.
People are more cautious
Authorities warn people to stay indoors as illnesses reemerge ferociously. People should also use face masks if they go outside. Meanwhile, the government has facilitated the public’s access to Covid therapies, vaccinations, and diagnostic procedures. To aid states in battling the problem, the administration has also started spending money on pop-up vaccination stations and personal protective equipment.
“There’s been a lot of attention directed to patients at higher risk of the complications of all of these illnesses – older persons, people who have any underlying illness, anyone who has immune compromise. I think, during this surge of this tridemic, if you will, there’s been a lot of ‘dust off your mask. Put your mask back on,'” added Schaffner.
“I don’t want to go to mandates because I think over much of the United States, you will get a lot of pushback, and people will ignore it. Public health recommendations have to be acceptable,” he added.
“The notion that during these kinds of viral surges, people at risk should be wearing masks and being more cautious seems entirely reasonable. And I add to that, particularly in this part of the country, that we should be accepting, tolerant and indeed supporting people who do that because they have a reason.”
The government also said it would concentrate on facilities housing senior citizens. Infected older people get worse symptoms than younger people. Therefore, according to the Biden administration, it would intensify Paxlovid treatments and booster injection procedures.
“We are a few years into this pandemic, and we are prepared for this moment,” said a Biden official.
Photo Credit: George Frey
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