The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on Friday on the legality of two initiatives at the heart of the Biden administration's efforts to address the coronavirus in the workplace.
The justices will hear hours of arguments over a vaccine-or-test requirement for workers at the country's largest companies, and a separate vaccine mandate for healthcare personnel at facilities that receive federal Medicaid and Medicare funds, reported The New York Times (NYT).
"Unvaccinated Americans continue to face a real threat of severe illness and death, including from Omicron," said White House press secretary Jen Psaki in a statement on Thursday.
"The need and the urgency for these policies is greater than ever, and we are confident in the legal authority for both policies," said the statement.
"The challengers -- states led by Republican officials, businesses, religious groups and others -- say that Congress has not authorized the measures, adding that they are unnecessary and in some ways counterproductive," said the NYT.
As soaring demand makes lab-based and at-home tests hard to come by, many people are forsaking tests, leaving them unable to determine whether they are infected and potentially exposing others, reported The Wall Street Journal on Friday.
Those who manage to get at-home rapid tests rarely report the results to health departments, often because the means to do so are cumbersome or non-existent. As a result, public-health officials lack the full picture of the virus's spread when the Omicron variant is raging, the newspaper said.
Throughout the pandemic, testing volume in the United States has fallen short of the level public health specialists recommend, Atul Grover, executive director of the Research and Action Institute at the Association of American Medical Colleges, was quoted as saying.
During the current surge, in which test positivity rates have reached double digits in many areas, the gap is even greater, he said, noting that "we are definitely missing people and undertesting."
2ND BOOSTER DOSE
People were likely to need a second booster dose in the fall, with front-line workers and people aged 50 and older a particular priority as antibody levels wane, said the Chief Executive of coronavirus vaccine-maker Moderna Stephane Bancel on Thursday.
People who received booster shots in the fall are likely to have significant protection through the winter, Bancel said at a healthcare conference hosted by Goldman Sachs, according to reports by The Washington Post.
But he said the efficacy of boosters could decrease by next fall.
Separately, the Israeli government released a preliminary study this week indicating that a fourth dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine generated a fivefold increase in an individual's antibodies, a week after the shot.