Omicron: How to order free at-home COVID-19 tests

Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani details the latest about the coronavirus pandemic and how Americains get receive free home test kits for COVID-19 after an announcement from President Biden.

Video Transcript

EMILY MCCORMICK: COVID-19 is pushing hospitals across the country to the brink of capacity limits as cases continue to soar. Yahoo Finance health reporter, Anjalee Khemlani joins us now to discuss. And Anjalee, break down the latest on the virus for us as we continue to track Omicron's spread.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Well, Emily, unfortunately, we know that the numbers keep on rising, especially for hospitalizations in the US and I know we've touched on that, especially after we saw the cases rise, the expectation was just as we've seen with all the previous waves, that after cases spike then come hospitalization rises, and that's when we start to look out for the deaths that come as a result. Now while Omicron has been sort of milder, and again I put that with an asterisk-- that it has been reportedly milder compared to Delta but that doesn't necessarily give everyone the escape. We have seen some deaths already in the UK and the US reported from this new variant.

Now what's here in the US is a little bit different from what we saw out of South Africa, which I know we've largely relied on to really look at what the situation is. And a couple of things stand out, number one, is that we have an older population than South Africa. We are also in the winter months, which means more gathering indoors, and easier transmission, especially for something that's as transmissible, so it's important to keep that in mind. And right now we're seeing hospitals report about 20% say they're critically short on staffing, while about 23% say they expect so in coming weeks and we know this wave is likely to move in waves around the country as we have a large landmass to contend with by comparison to other areas which have seen surges rise and fall.

Meanwhile, I also want to bring up something that is going on with the free at-home rapid test, that's something that the Biden administration just gave reporters an update about. We know that there has been the push for delivering these, and President Joe Biden himself said there was going to be a website. That website is now live and that is going to start taking orders as of January 19th. We're going to see-- there you see it on your screen They did say that there's a limit of four tests per household and delivery will be in 7 to 12 days after that goes in.

They have confirmed that these are going to be tests that will detect the Omicron variant, and there's also a line to call for those without internet and access. So just to keep an eye out on that. And of course, you know, just looking at everything that's going on, we all, of course, have to stay updated on what the latest studies show about vaccines.

Now while here in the US we do have access to three of the different types of platforms and technologies, there is some reporting out that looks at different vaccines that have been used abroad, largely made by Chinese companies or the ones in India. So those, by the way, do not work against Omicron, or there are some studies that show they might be even less effective. And there's some concern there, as we know, that about 1% to 2% of the early vaccinations for Africa did come from those Chinese companies, which is important because we're still looking at vaccine equity here. So this all plays a role in sort of that road to ending this pandemic.

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