People wait outside a community center as long lines continue for individuals trying to be tested for COVID-19 during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in San Diego, California, US, Jan 10, 2022. (MIKE BLAKE / REUTERS)
WASHINGTON/MOSCOW – US President Joe Biden said on Thursday that COVID-19 cases "are rising" across the country.
The remarks, which Biden posted on Twitter, came as American families are getting together for the holidays.
The White House is resuming a program to send COVID-19 testing kits to households that request them ahead of a potential winter surge.
A senior official of the Biden administration told reporters on Wednesday that "we're seeing COVID cases rising in parts of the country following Thanksgiving."
"While COVID isn't the disruptive force it once was, we know that the virus will circulate more quickly and easily as folks gather indoors for the winter holiday season," the official said.
The seven-day average of weekly new COVID-19 cases, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reached more than 65,000 last week, an increase of nearly 50 percent compared to the previous week.
More than 99 million COVID-19 cases and 1.08 million deaths had been reported in the United States as of Dec 7, CDC data showed.
Meanwhile, US households can order four free at-home COVID-19 tests from the government website COVIDTests.gov beginning on Thursday as part of the Biden administration's efforts to tackle coronavirus infections over the winter.
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The White House said it would use existing funding to pay for the tests since it has been unsuccessful so far in getting Congress to pass a bill to put more money toward the US COVID-19 response.
The free tests program was paused because officials wanted to make sure there were enough tests available for a likely spike in COVID cases in the winter, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha said.
"We knew there will be a moment later in the year when COVID cases would rise again. So we preserved the tests so we could have them on hand for exactly this moment," White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha said on Thursday. "And if we don't get more funding, we won't be able to send more tests out to the American people."
The administration would start shipping orders of the latest round of free tests during the week of Dec 19.
Medical workers treat patients in the COVID-19 ward at the US Department of Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare system campus and medical center in West Roxbury, Massachusetts on Jan 11, 2022. (JOSEPH PREZIOSO / AFP)
Jha also urged Americans to get their flu vaccines and updated COVID-19 boosters on Thursday.
"There's still a lot of flu and then COVID numbers are rising pretty significantly over the last couple of weeks," Jha said in an interview with CNN.
"If people go out and get their flu vaccine, if people go out and get their updated COVID vaccines, things will be much better. Obviously, if that doesn't happen, then there's more concern and more risk out there."
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People walk in an underground in St Petersburg, Russia, Jan 21, 2022. (DMITRI LOVETSKY / AP)
Russia has registered 7,833 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the nationwide tally to 21,692,870, said the official monitoring and response center on Thursday.
The center said the nationwide death toll increased by 57 to 392,832, and the number of recoveries grew by 7,539 to 21,088,668.
Meanwhile, Moscow reported 1,692 new cases, taking its total to 3,276,774.