Biden's winter COVID-19 plan includes masks, insurance reimbursements for at-home virus tests

Biden announced tenets of the winter COVID plan on Thursday

President Biden announced Thursday that over 150 million Americans with private health insurance will soon become eligible to get at-home coronavirus tests reimbursements from their insurance company.

The announcement arrived alongside a number of additional COVID restrictions that Biden unfurled as part of an ongoing attempt to keep virus numbers under control as the country enters the winter season. One such element of the seasonal plan requires international travelers to show proof of a negative virus test taken the day before departure. The announcement also comes amid the emergence of a new virus variant known as Omicron.

Biden called on employers to provide paid time off for employees who want to get boosted. The president will also announce plans for "a new effort to launch hundreds of vaccination clinics around the country."

The administration has relied heavily on universal vaccinations as a strategy to end the pandemic. However, some vaccinated people are still contracting the virus. Despite relatively high vaccine numbers, lawmakers continue to impose new precautions, or reinstitute previous ones in an attempt to control the virus.

Guidance from the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury are expected by Jan. 15, to clarify the parameters of what insurers will be obligated to reimburse.

The federal plan will extend the current mask mandate that applies to most forms of travel until mid-March. 

Right now, just six states require masks be worn indoors regardless of their vaccination status. Three others, California, New York, and Connecticut, require masks indoors for unvaccinated individuals.