COVID Omicron Updates: Demand for free government coronavirus tests plummets along with cases

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Monday, February 28, 2022
Nearly half of free government COVID tests remain unclaimed
Demand for the free at-home COVID tests provided by the government has plummeted

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Nearly half of the 500 million free COVID-19 tests the Biden administration recently made available to the public still have not been claimed as virus cases plummet and people feel less urgency to test.

Wild demand swings have been a subplot in the pandemic, from vaccines to hand sanitizer, along with tests.

On the first day of the White House test giveaway in January, received over 45 million orders.

Now, officials say fewer than 100,000 orders a day are coming in for the packages of four free rapid tests per household, delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.

RELATED: What are the symptoms of the COVID omicron variant?

Here are more of today's COVID-19 headlines:

Masks optional at Brooklyn, Queens Catholic schools starting Wednesday

Catholic Academies and Parish Schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn, which includes Queens, will make face coverings an individual choice for staff and a parental choice for all students starting on Wednesday. However, city funded Pre-K-3 and Pre-K-4 programs will need to continue to wear masks as required by the New York City Department of Education. The decision comes a day after Governor Kathy Hochul lifted the statewide school mask mandate effective on March 2.

Taxpayers should expect refund delays amid massive IRS tax return backlog

Congressman Josh Gottheimer held a press conference Monday to sound the alarm on the massive IRS backlog of six million individual tax returns from last tax season, all as the new tax season is underway. Gottheimer appeared with local residents who had their federal tax refunds delayed for months.

"This morning, I'm announcing my taxpayer action plan to help cut the bureaucratic red tape that led to this backlog at the IRS, get these returns processed for Americans, and get them their well-deserved taxpayer dollars in their pockets where they belong," Gottheimer said.

Adams says he'll make decision on Key 2 NYC, school masks next week after studying data

New York state is dropping it's school masking mandate Wednesday, but for now, masks will remain in New York City public schools. Mayor Eric Adams said he will decide next week if students and staff inside city schools can unmask after he takes a look at the numbers this week. He said he will look at the same indicators before deciding if the Key2NYC mandate, which requires vaccines for restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues, could also go away. Adams said he is giving businesses the week to adapt while monitoring the numbers, while the city employee vaccine mandate will remain in place for now.

Connecticut school mask mandate expires, leaving districts in charge of decision

Connecticut's COVID-19 safety protocol for masks to be worn in all schools and childcare centers expired Monday, leaving the determination to local districts. Governor Ned Lamont announced earlier this month that he would let the mandate lapse, endorsing a plan developed in consultation with Connecticut Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani and Connecticut State Department of Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker.

"Connecticut is seeing a dramatic decline in cases caused by the omicron variant, and children over the age of 5 have had the ability to get vaccinated for more than three months now," Lamont said. "With this in mind, I think we are in a good position to phase out the requirement that masks be worn in all schools statewide and shift the determination on whether to require this to the local level."

Our America: Health Equity & COVID | Watch full panel discussion

ABC Owned Television Stations and Participant have joined forces to present "Our America: Health Equity & COVID," a series of conversations focusing on health equity and supporting the mental health and wellness of our health care workers. The first conversation will be grounded in "The First Wave," a documentary from National Geographic Documentary Films and director Matthew Heineman, and will focus on the issues facing health care workers both since and before the start of the pandemic, as well as the disproportionate impact of COVID-19. It comes on the heels of Congress' passage of the Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, which aims to improve mental and behavioral health among health care providers and health care workers, and is a timely reminder of the inequities pervading our health systems.

How many times can I reuse my N95 mask?

How many times can I reuse my N95 mask? It depends, but you should be able to use N95s and KN95s a few times. The U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention says health care workers can wear an N95 mask up to five times. But experts say how often the average person can safely wear one will vary depending on how it's used. Using the same mask to run to the grocery store, for example, is very different than wearing it all day at work.

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