Coronavirus update: U.S. may distribute free COVID-19 tests

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Officials say the pandemic has slowed population growth

Coronavirus (COVID-19) ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 51,127,557 (50,896,569)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 808,128 (806,635)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 275,666,580 (275,036,978)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 5,365,183 (5,357,666)‌

The government will reportedly hand out free COVID-19 tests

The Biden administration is reportedly planning to give away free at-home COVID-19 tests to anyone that asks for one. NBC News quotes a senior administration official who says the tests will be delivered by mail.

According to the report, the administration plans to ship as many as 500 million test kits. It’s reportedly setting up a website where people can submit requests.

The federal government is also said to be in the process of setting up new testing centers around the country in response to the spread of the Omicron variant. Currently, 20,000 such centers are in operation.

Pandemic slows population growth to record low

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the U.S. population grew at the slowest rate on record this year, primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report attributes the slow growth to decreased net international migration, decreased fertility, and increased mortality due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Population growth has been slowing for years because of lower birth rates and decreasing net international migration, all while mortality rates are rising due to the aging of the nation’s population,” said Kristie Wilder, a demographer in the Population Division at the Census Bureau. “Now, with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, this combination has resulted in a historically slow pace of growth.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the U.S. population only grew by 444,464, or 0.13%. 

Trump tired of supporters booing him for being vaccinated

During Donald Trump’s last year as president, his administration launched “Operation Warp Speed” to assist the development of vaccines to fight the coronavirus epidemic. When the vaccines became available, he got vaccinated and urged others to do so.

But since then, many of Trump's strongest supporters have refused to be vaccinated and criticize anyone who gets the jab, including the former chief executive. At a Dallas appearance Monday, Trump was booed by some in the audience when he said he had gotten the booster.

“Oh, don’t, don’t, don’t!” said the obviously irritated former president. He later added, “We saved tens of millions worldwide by creating the vaccine.”

Around the nation

  • New York: New York City has stepped up its COVID-19 testing programs amid a record surge in new cases, fed mostly by the spreading Omicron variant. Mayor Bill de Blasio said he’s trying to avoid shutdowns in the city by increasing the number of testing centers.

  • Michigan: The Autism Alliance of Michigan has gone on the record by urging parents to make sure their autistic children receive a COVID-19 vaccination. The group said it’s acting because research has shown that people with severe autism can face a higher risk from the virus.

  • Arkansas: State health officials report that the death toll from COVID-19 continues to go up while the number of cases and hospitalizations goes down. On Monday, the state reported the highest daily increase in the number of deaths due to COVID-19 since early November. 

  • Texas: Officials say the Austin area has seen a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases, with the number nearly doubling in the last week. So far, many of the cases don’t appear to be severe. There has been little increase in the number of cases requiring hospital treatment.

  • Virginia: COVID-19 cases are surging in the state, but Incoming Gov. Glen Youngkin has ruled out reimposing a statewide mask mandate. He also said there will not be a return to virtual learning next year. “I believe children need to be in the classroom five days a week,” Youngkin said. “And I also believe we can in fact balance the needs of our children with the health and safety of our children. And I don’t believe that mandating masks in school is the right way.”

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