President Joe Biden on Monday acknowledged that the U.S. does not have enough coronavirus tests available as omicron and holiday travel spurred long lines at testing facilities.
“It’s not enough. It’s clearly not enough,” Biden said of his administration’s efforts to increase testing during a call with governors. “If we had known, we would have gone harder, quicker if we could have.”
Biden also pointed out his previous actions aimed at increasing testing, including standing up new federal testing sites and purchasing 500 million at-home rapid coronavirus tests to be delivered to Americans who want them starting next month.
“Seeing how tough it was for some folks to get a test this weekend shows that we have more work to do, and we’re doing it,” Biden said.
Holiday travel paired with the rapid spread of the omicron coronavirus variant led to high demand for tests and empty shelves at stores that sell at-home tests. Testing issues are not a new problem for the U.S., as many experts decried shortages during the surge of the delta variant, as well.
U.S. health officials have indicated that an upcoming omicron surge is inevitable and pushed for people to rely on tests to travel safely over the holidays.
The president was asked if he supports shortening the isolation period for coronavirus cases, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at 10 days for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. The CDC shortened the period for health care workers last week, allowing asymptomatic people to return to work after seven days with a negative test. The time frame can be cut even more to accommodate staffing shortages, the agency said.
Airlines have been pressuring the CDC to update its guidance as they face staffing issues due to the omicron variant. Biden indicated he was open to the idea, saying that he would follow recommendations from his medical team.