Real Estate

More Booster Shots and Testing Coming Due to Omicron Variant

President Biden laid out a COVID-19 response plan Thursday that will push more people to get vaccinated and attempt to keep businesses open.

As the mysterious Omicron variant of the coronavirus races across the globe, President Joe Biden on Thursday laid out an expansive response plan that aims to get more people vaccinated and improves access to at-home testing.

“We’re going to fight this variant with science and speed,” Biden said during an address at the White House. “Not chaos and confusion.”

The aim of the new plan is to keep the pandemic in check and on the retreat as the Omicron variant threatens schools, travel and the economy — including industries such as real estate.

The plan includes multiple sections, the first of which is to get vaccine booster shots for all adults. A White House statement indicates that 100 million Americans are eligible currently for boosters and should get them “as soon as possible.”

“Go get your booster now,” Biden said during his address on the plan. “Go get it now.”

Biden went on to say that he is working on making it easier to get boosters, including by reaching out to pharmacies about expanded operating hours and more walk-in availability.

He also urged people to have their children over age 5 vaccinated as well, and the plan points out that “today, 99 percent of schools across the country are fully open and in person. The steps the president is announcing today will ensure that remains the case.”

“If you’re worried about the Omicron variant,” Biden added during his address, “the best thing to do is get fully vaccinated and then get your booster shot.”

Biden’s plan will also see the expansion of at-home testing, which he said will now be covered by insurance. Such tests are common in other parts of the world and typically include people taking, for example, their own nasal swab.

Other provisions of the plan include a requirement that all inbound international travelers to the U.S. test negative for COVID-19 within a day of their trip, as well as the extension of mask mandates on public transit and airplanes through the winter.

The plan also includes a section on protecting the economy and calls on “businesses to move forward with vaccination or testing programs.”

“No business should shut down this winter because of COVID-19,” the White House statement adds.

While the plan is lengthy and includes a variety of technical strategies to contain the pandemic, the overall aims of keeping businesses and schools open will likely come as welcome news to members of the real estate industry.

When the pandemic first reached the U.S. in early 2020, many parts of the country effectively shut down — blocking many real estate transactions in the process.

Real estate has since pivoted to adopt an array of digital practices, but in-person activities such as showings remain important to the real estate industry. And in that context, it’s significant that Biden’s plan calls for efforts to prevent further shutdowns, rather than acting as a blueprint for impending closures.

That doesn’t mean the specifics of the plan will be uncontroversial, and Biden acknowledged during his remarks Thursday that COVID-19 had become politically and culturally divisive. But he ultimately urged Americans to get behind efforts to curb the outbreak.

“The actions I’m announcing,” he said, “are ones all Americans can rally behind and should unite us in the fight against COVID-19.”

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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