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The New COVID Rules, According to the White House and CDC

Know what to expect.

On Wednesday, the White House released a new plan for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, one that views it less as a crisis and more as something to live with, aided by better tools for testing and treatment. It includes the position that lockdowns are no longer necessary. "We look to a future when Americans no longer fear lockdowns, shutdowns, and our kids not going to school," the plan says. "It's a future when the country relies on the powerful layers of protection we have built and invests in the next generation of tools to stay ahead of this virus." Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


"Test to Treat" Includes Free Antiviral Pills

Concept of antiviral drug medication in hand for new COVID19 Coronavirus

During this State of the Union address on Tuesday night, President Biden previewed a key part of the new COVID plan that includes dispensing free antiviral pills to people who test positive for the virus. The pills have been found to reduce the risk of COVID-related hospitalization and death by nearly 90%. 

"Pfizer is working overtime to get us a million pills this month and more than double that next month," said Biden. "And now we're launching the 'Test to Treat' initiative. So people can get tested at a pharmacy and, if they prove positive, receive the antiviral pills on the spot at no cost." 

White House officials told The Hill that hundreds of test-to-treat centers will be opened at chains like CVS, Walgreens, and Kroger. Exact locations and procedures for obtaining the pills are still to be announced. In the meantime, GoodRx has launched a tracker indicating where the pills are available.

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More Free COVID Tests Available

Man self tests for COVID-19 home test kit.

Also during his address, Biden said that next week Americans will be able to order another pack of free COVID tests from the government. The tests can ordered from, or by calling 800-232-0233. The service has sent 270 million free tests to 70 million households since it launched in mid-January.

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A Plan to Track, Respond to New Variants

People in protective suits and masks delivering vaccine of coronavirus.

The new plan includes government tracking and response to any new COVID variants that might develop. Under a "coronavirus variant playbook" that has been developed, officials will be able to produce and authorize new vaccines and treatments within 100 days of identifying a new variant.

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When to Mask


The new plan comes days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its guidelines for wearing a face mask in public. The country is now classified into high, medium, and low levels of COVID-19, based on the total number of cases in an area, COVID hospitalization rates, and the number of hospital beds available.

In areas where the community COVID level is high, people are advised to wear a mask indoors in public. In areas where the community level is medium, the agency recommends that people consult their healthcare provider about whether they should mask in public. In areas where the community level is low, wearing a mask in public is no longer considered essential.

You can check your community's COVID-19 level on the CDC's website or by calling  800-232-4636.

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What This Means

Portrait of doctor with face mask and clipboard looking at camera in hospital.

"The way people approach COVID-19 is going to be based on their individual risk tolerance, instead of some government mandate," Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told the Washington Post on Wednesday. "We have to come up with an approach that reflects the fact that there will always be COVID-19. It can't be eradicated or eliminated."

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How to Stay Safe Out There

Nurse gives students a vaccination in school during coronavirus pandemic

Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
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