COVID test lines backed up for miles as Biden falls down on response: ‘Lack of federal prioritization’

Coronavirus testing sites have been overwhelmed after the holidays amid a surge in cases

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Americans across the nation have been waiting for hours in lines to take COVID-19 tests after the Christmas holiday as cases surge and rapid tests disappear from store shelves. 

President Biden alluded to the alarmingly long lines this week but said his administration couldn't have seen the COVID-19 surge coming. 

"Seeing how tough it was for some folks to get a test this weekend shows that we have more work to do, and we’re doing it," Biden said on a call with governors. "But it’s not enough. It’s clearly not enough. If I had — we had known, we would have gone harder, quicker if we could have."

In the same speech, Biden told the nation's governors that there is "no federal solution" to the pandemic. 

"There is no federal solution. This gets solved at the state level," Biden said.

Dr. Jerome Adams, the surgeon general in the Trump administration, said that the need for more testing should have been anticipated, citing a report last week that the Biden Administration rejected a proposal in October to ramp up testing ahead of Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

"It comes down to a lack of federal prioritization. There’s no other way to put it… It’s frustrating when you hear President Biden and Vice President Harris say on the record, ‘We didn’t see this coming. No one could have seen this coming,’" Adams told Fox News Digital. 

"Well, we always knew that in the holiday season, you’re going to see a surge. We always knew that delta, after it hit India and the UK, was going to come hit us. So this reflects a failure of the administration to really take this seriously and to prioritize the virus the way they told us they would."

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Biden denied this week that his administration rejected the October proposal to increase testing capacity. 

Meanwhile, the Biden administration can't deny the reality on the ground as Americans spend valuable time waiting for tests.

The Biden administration announced a plan last week to purchase 500 million at-home rapid tests and distribute them for free, but White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients said Wednesday that the first shipments won't go out for days, if not weeks. 

"Companies are already submitting information, and we expect the contract to be completed late next week. That means that the first deliveries for manufacturers will start in January," Zients said during a press conference. 

"We’re actively working to finalize that distribution mechanism, which includes a website where people will be able to order tests for free.  And we’ll share more details in the weeks ahead — days and weeks ahead." 

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But that plan doesn't ease the testing shortage now, as photos and videos of Americans in small towns and large cities alike across the country merged during the holiday week.

People wait on line to get tested for COVID in the Lower East Side on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Brittainy Newman)

People wait on line to get tested for COVID in the Lower East Side on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Brittainy Newman)

The lack of testing is further compounded by the CDC's recent change to isolation and quarantine guidelines, which now say that individuals who test positive for COVID-19 can end isolation after five days if they aren't showing any symptoms. 

"The best science… still points back to the fact that we should be testing our way out of isolation with antigen tests, but we know that the federal government has not been able to provide those antigen tests," Dr. Adams said. 

"They should have said, ‘If you want to end isolation after five days, the best recommendation, our strongest and best recommendation for you, is to test out by having a negative antigen test.’"

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The U.S. hit a single-day record for new COVID-19 cases on Monday with 441,278 confirmed infections, followed by 431,567 new cases on Tuesday, according to CDC data

The 7-day average is also the highest it has ever been, standing at 277,241 on Tuesday.