Biden offers free Covid tests to avoid Omicron lockdowns, as recovery grows shaky.
Overnight shipping = unavailable… Yesterday President Biden announced plans to distribute 500M free at-home Covid tests — nearly two per American. People will be able to order the rapid tests online next month. Test makers including Abbott and Quest Diagnostics could benefit. Biden also plans to deploy 1K military troops to overwhelmed hospitals to prep for an Omicron wave. Hospitalizations in several states more than doubled over the past two weeks.
- The first US Omicron case was detected less than a month ago, but the variant already represents nearly three-fourths of Covid cases in the country.
- Omicron is believed to be less severe but more contagious than previous variants, based on early data. Mild cases may be easy to miss, so regular testing is key.
- Pfizer and Moderna say their vaccines, coupled with boosters, seem to prevent Omicron infections. But research suggests J&J and Astra Zeneca aren’t successful — though they still appear to provide significant protection against serious illness.
Cancel the fireworks… 3X more Americans plan to fly this holiday season compared to last, which could also increase transmission. Omicron’s spread isn’t expected to reduce holiday travel. But several governments and organizations have tightened IRL restrictions. Just a few:
- 50+ countries (including the US) have upped Omicron-related travel restrictions, and many European cities have restarted outdoor-mask mandates.
- Schools across the US have temporarily returned to remote learning, and pro sports leagues — including the NBA, NFL, and NHL — rescheduled games.
Recovery is fickle… White House officials say another lockdown isn’t necessary, but they do expect Omicron to keep spreading. New restrictions and Covid fears could cause sales to slump in the short term. Longer term, inflation and supply shortages could persist if new strains continue disrupting less vaxxed parts of the world. While markets have rebounded faster from each new variant, volatility likely isn’t over.