President Joe Biden's White House refused an October plan by COVID-19 testing experts to put some 732 million at-home tests in the hands of the public, a Vanity Fair report said Friday.
According to the report, which included a Zoom meeting and 10-page plan from October, authored by the COVID Collaborative, a group of several COVID testing expert organizations, said the country needed a "bold" plan to send out some 732 million tests per month for the disease before the holiday season to reduce family gathering outbreaks.
"The plan, in effect, was a blueprint for how to avoid what is happening at this very moment — endless lines of desperate Americans clamoring for tests in order to safeguard holiday gatherings, just as COVID-19 is exploding again," Vanity Fair reported.
The Biden administration, however, told the experts who authored the report that the idea was "dead" just days after the virtual meeting and report's release.
"The White House, in baseball terms, was playing small ball," meeting attendee Dr. Steven Phillips, a vice president of science and strategy for the COVID Collaborative, a team of high-level experts working to develop consensus recommendations for policy makers, told Vanity Fair. "When it comes to rapid testing, they're bunting the players along."
The report comes after long lines of people throughout the country went to get tested prior to holiday travel, with some waiting hours to find out if they were infected as the new omicron variant sweeps through the nation, increasing the number of new COVID-19 cases above previous pandemic levels in many places.
Biden announced Tuesday that his administration would be sending out 500 million at-home tests shortly "to anyone who wants them," advising citizens to go online and order them once they become available in January.
An administration official told the publication that manufacturers did not have that kind of capacity at the time of the meeting to produce that many tests.
"We did not have capacity to manufacture over-the-counter tests at that scale," the official told the publication.
During a recent ABC News interview, Biden said he "wished" he had ordered the tests "two months ago."
"I think it's — you could argue that we should have known a year ago, six months ago, two months ago, a month ago," Biden said during the interview. "I wish I had thought about ordering" 500 million at-home tests "two months ago."
As the number of new cases rises dramatically with the more contagious omicron variant, U.S. airlines have canceled more than 3,500 holiday flights for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, according to The New York Times.
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