Biden orders 500 million more at-home COVID-19 tests for Americans

Yahoo Finance's Rick Newman details the Biden administrations plans to distribute COVID-19 testing kits to Americans and hospitals, in addition to commenting on the president's approval rating.

Video transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: I want to take a turn here as we focus back. You know, obviously, everything playing out in the markets is what it is. But repeats of some of the pandemic scenes that we saw at the earliest days playing out now again as President Biden orders additional doctors and staffing sent to some of those hardest hit areas right now in the Omicron wave, including hospitals in New Jersey and New York and other states, as staffs there continue to battle rising cases.

And for more on that, I want to bring on Yahoo Finance's Rick Newman. And Rick, I mean, obviously, this is something that the president can do and something that might have been expected. But I mean, what do you make of what we're hearing from him in terms of what the Federal government's role is to play in this chapter?

RICK NEWMAN: I think the Biden administration clearly is struggling. They didn't seem to think we were really going to need that many more tests. I guess if you go back nine months or so, that might have seemed reasonable. But then, of course, we got the Delta variant surge and now the even worse Omicron variant surge. And we just don't have enough tests. This is turning into a particularly big problem at schools, where they just need to do frequent rapid testing.

So Biden said today his administration is planning on purchasing another 500 million tests. So there will be as many as 1 billion tests available for COVID testing in the foreseeable future. And he also said next week, we're going to get details about the administration's plans to send masks to everybody who wants a mask. And I don't know if that means they're going to come in the mail, or are you going to be able to pick them up for free at the post office, or what it's going to be exactly. But I guess we'll find out about that next week.

And of course, this is happening, Zack, as President Biden's approval rating is really down. There was one poll yesterday. The Quinnipiac Poll showed his approval rating as low as 33%. That would be down something like 20, 25 points from a year ago when he first started. So our struggle with COVID, our ongoing struggle with COVID, I guess I should say, is clearly hurting President Biden's approval rating.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and I guess, you know, obviously he's got a lot to manage here when we talk about where the pandemic is at. And I guess there are a lot of questions around why tests now if we didn't have them during the holiday season. I remember him being asked particularly about that. But the updates here in terms of what we're hearing today, I just want to play a little bit of what we did hear from President Biden earlier this morning.

JOE BIDEN: We're on track to roll out a website next week where you can order free tests shipped to your home. And in addition to the 500 million, half a billion tests that are in the process of being acquired to ship to you, homes for free today, I'm directing my team to procure an additional half a billion-- additional 500 million more tests to distribute for free. I mean a billion tests in total to meet future demand.

ZACK GUZMAN: So Rick, obviously, you and I aren't test supply specialists here, but obviously, I think some of maybe that preparedness playing into some of what you're seeing slip in his approval rating. I mean, you've been tracking that for a while. I mean, any kind of connection in terms of pairing those dots, do you think, around tests now versus then?

RICK NEWMAN: Well, I mean, we really need the tests. I mean, there's no doubt about it. Let's just go back to the schools. I mean, look at all the schools that are really struggling. This is having a huge impact on parents. I mean, parents of school age kids have to be tearing their hair out at this point. You know, everybody, including President Biden, thought that once we got the vaccines widely available last year, that that was going to be the way out of the pandemic, and it clearly isn't. So that's why we're seeing the administration seems like it's behind the curve on this.

Now when I hear a president say we're going to get a website up and running soon, and it's going to send something to everybody across the country, what does that make me think of? It makes me think of healthcare.gov in the fall of 2013, which, of course, was a disaster. It seems to me maybe, you know, the Biden administration could contract with Amazon and say, you guys already have logistics in place. Maybe, you know, we'll pay you to send these out to everybody in a few days.

That's obviously not what they're doing. Maybe this will happen through the Postal Service. But, you know, it seems like there's now some operational risk for Biden, as businesses might put it, because now he has to deliver on what-- you know, voters now expect there to be a competent federal effort to send tests out. And if it takes two weeks, four weeks, then Biden has set himself up for failure.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and obviously, that scrutiny only grows in a midterm year. We'll see if some of that pressure on Biden sprinkles over to other Democrats. But Rick Newman bringing us the latest there. Appreciate--

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