Washington, Jan 20 (IANS): US President Joe Biden's administration will start shipping 400 million free non-surgical N95 face masks to distribution sites nationwide this week as part of efforts to fight the Omicron-fuelled Covid-19 resurgence, a media report said.
Americans will be able to pick up their masks at one of "tens of thousands" of pharmacies, thousands of community centres and other locations across the country, beginning late next week, Xinhua news agency quoted the USA Today report as saying on Wednesday.
As Omicron cases have been overwhelming across the country, Biden is facing criticism over his ability to contain the pandemic, noted the newspaper, adding that the White House expects the program to be fully up and running by early February.
The Biden administration's new website allowing people to order up to four free at-home coronavirus tests quietly went live on Tuesday, a day in advance of its formal launch, and demand already appeared to be significant.
A combined total of more than 1 million visitors were on the home page and the ordering page of covidtests.gov at one point Tuesday evening, more than 40 times as many as were on the government site with the next highest traffic, the US Postal Service's package-tracking page, according to official data.
The test-and-mask moves show that the Biden administration "is trying to step up its coronavirus response as the highly infectious Omicron variant drives a spike in cases across the nation", The New York Times said in a report on Wednesday, noting that the administration at first resisted the idea of sending tests to Americans' homes.
As of Thursday morning, the US' overall caseload and death toll stood at 68,508,181 and 857,672, according to the Johns Hopkins University's latest update.
The two tallies are the highest in the world.