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Biden administration deploying medical teams and procuring 500 million more tests

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The Biden administration is sending medical teams to six states in need of COVID-19 care and procuring an additional 500 million rapid tests, President Biden announced Thursday. 

The new tranche of tests doubles the current 500 million at-home tests the administration is in the process of acquiring, bringing the total to 1 billion rapid tests, according to a White House official. The tests will begin to be sent out later this month to American households that request them.

The six additional federal military medical teams will be going to six states: New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Michigan and New Mexico. The teams of doctors, nurses and other clinical personnel will be supporting major hospitals in those states, including the Cleveland Clinic, Coney Island Hospital and Henry Ford Hospital, near Detroit. There are more than 40 medical teams from the Army, Air Force and Navy that will total 1,000 active duty military medical personnel available, according to a defense official. Teams will continue to be mobilized and deployed where they are needed in the coming weeks.

They're being sent to help emergency departments that have been overwhelmed amid the latest surge in COVID-19 Omicron variant cases. A White House official says that this is a "first wave of deployments," and other teams will also be sent to areas where they're needed.

"I know we're all frustrated as we enter this new year," the president said in brief remarks Thursday. "Omicron variant is causing millions of cases and record hospitalizations. I've been saying that as we remain in this pandemic, this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. And I mean by this, right now both vaccinated and unvaccinated people are testing positive, but what happens after that could not be more different." 

A White House official said the president, the secretary of defense and FEMA administrator will be briefed on the administration's efforts to send resources and personnel to hard-hit communities across the country. 

Meanwhile, Americans with private insurance will be able to be reimbursed for at-home tests beginning Saturday. 

The announcements come as the COVID-19 Omicron variant has swept the country, leaving many regions in the country with not enough tests to meet demand. Many schools are also requiring proof of a negative test for students to return to the classroom. 

Critics have said the White House should have been better prepared for the highly contagious variant, but the president has denied any failure on the part of his administration. 

— CBS News' Sara Cook contributed to this report.

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