Reporters ask Biden if testing shortage is a failure for the administration

President Biden addressed nation on COVID-19 surges, Omicron variant

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President Biden addressed the American people Tuesday on the recent surge of COVID-19 cases due to the new omicron variant. 

During his speech, Biden described plans to purchase and distribute approximately 500 million COVID-19 tests amidst large shortages throughout the country.

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Because of these shortages, CNN reporter Phil Mattingly questioned whether this would qualify as a "failure" on the administration’s part to adequately prepare for the latest variant.

City residents wait in a line extending around the block to receive free at-home rapid COVID-19 test kits in Philadelphia, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

City residents wait in a line extending around the block to receive free at-home rapid COVID-19 test kits in Philadelphia, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

"On testing, you said we have to do better, but public health officials have been saying for months you need to surge rapid tests for just this moment. Is it a failure that you don't have an adequate amount of tests for everyone to be able to get one, if they need one, right now?" Mattingly asked.

"No it’s not," Biden responded. "Because COVID is spreading so rapidly if you notice. It just happened almost overnight just in the last month. And so, it’s not a failure, but an alarm bell went off. I don’t think anybody anticipated that this was going to be as rapidly spreading as it did. And so the question is, we had a lot of people who had access to tests who can order them, could have their insurance pay for it, etc."

Biden also added that "all of a sudden, it was like everybody rushed to the counter. There was a big, big rush, and I knew that was coming. So what I tried to do was meet with the companies and use the Defense Production Act to get a half a billion more tests and figure out how to get them to their homes, get them on the shelves in the stores. That’s what it’s all about."

BANGKOK, THAILAND - 2021/12/18: A health worker administers a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to a man at the Bang Sue Grand Station, Bangkok. Thailand has accelerated Covid-19 vaccination shots and booster shot in preparation for a local spread of the Omicron variant after Thailand's Ministry of Health said last week that at least 9 cases of Omicron had been discovered in Thailand. (Photo by Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

BANGKOK, THAILAND - 2021/12/18: A health worker administers a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to a man at the Bang Sue Grand Station, Bangkok. Thailand has accelerated Covid-19 vaccination shots and booster shot in preparation for a local spread of the Omicron variant after Thailand's Ministry of Health said last week that at least 9 cases of Omicron had been discovered in Thailand. (Photo by Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) (Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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PBS's Yamiche Alcindor also questioned "what took so long" to develop plans to ramp up testing for Americans. Biden again responded that the lag came from the unexpected strain from the Omicron variant.

The 500 million COVID-19 tests are expected to be delivered in January.

U.S. President Joe Biden listens to a question as he speaks about the country's fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 21, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Joe Biden listens to a question as he speaks about the country's fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 21, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (Reuters)

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Various people on Twitter criticized Biden's refusal to claim that the testing shortage was a failure on his part.