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Kamala Harris says COVID-19 tests for all Americans will go out 'soon'

The vice president tells TODAY's Craig Melvin that getting COVID-19 tests to every American was "a matter of urgency" for the White House.
/ Source: TODAY

Vice President Kamala Harris says 500 million COVID-19 tests were being prepared to ship to every American household "soon," and that getting the country tests amid the recent omicron surge was "a matter of urgency" for the administration.

“They’ve been ordered. They’ve been ordered,” Harris told Craig Melvin in an exclusive interview Thursday on TODAY. “I have to look at the current information. I think it’s going to be by next week. But soon. Absolutely soon. And it is a matter of urgency for us.”

When pressed about whether the move should have come sooner, the vice president reiterated that the tests were on their way.

“We are doing it,” she said.

After Harris' interview aired, a White House official clarified the timetable to TODAY, saying the 500 million at-home COVID-19 tests would be sent out to the country later this month, and the contracts to create the tests were expected to be awarded over the next two weeks.

Additional details about the tests would be provided on Friday, the official said.

Harris also addressed whether it was time for the Biden administration to change course in how it approaches the coronavirus. Covid deaths have reached 1,600 per day in the U.S., a 40 percent increase over the previous week, according to CDC data. Last week, six former administration health officials wrote an open letter urging President Joe Biden to adopt a new pandemic strategy.

Harris reiterated the need for people to get vaccinated.

"Every day it is time for us to agree that there are things and tools that are available to us to slow this thing down," she said. "We are in the midst of a surge. That’s where we are right now. And so right now, we know we still have a number of people that, that is in the millions of Americans who have not been vaccinated, and could be vaccinated, and we are urging them to get vaccinated because it will save their life."

The vice president also addressed the issue of voting rights and the president's comments in a speech in Atlanta on Tuesday that compared those who opposed voting rights legislation to those who opposed civil rights.

"President Biden took the, I believe, right and courageous step to say that Senate rules should not get in the way of protecting the American people’s access to the ballot," she said. "And he compared this time to a previous time in our history, which is apt for comparison."

The White House has faced Republican opposition to the two bills, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

It has also been putting pressure on two moderate Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who have said they support the voting legislation but oppose an end to the filibuster, a crucial move to getting the bills passed. 

“When we have the discussion about who’s responsible, I will not absolve the 50 Republicans in the United States Senate from responsibility for upholding one of the most basic and important tenets of our democracy, which is free and fair elections and access to the ballot for all eligible voters," Harris said.

Asked specifically about Manchin and Sinema, Harris said, "I don’t think anyone should be absolved from the responsibility of preserving and protecting our democracy, specially when they took an oath to protect and defend our Constitution."

There has also been speculation about what the Democratic presidential ticket will look like in 2024 and whether Biden and Harris will run again.

Harris said she remained locked in on the challenges ahead of her.

"I’m sorry, we are thinking about today," she said. "I mean, honestly, I know why you’re asking the question, because this is part of the punditry and the gossip around places like Washington, D.C. Let me just tell you something: We’re focused on the things in front of us."

Editor’s Note: The headline of this story has been updated after further clarification from the White House on the timeline of the delivery of COVID-19 tests to Americans. A White House official offered additional comment after Vice President Harris’ interview aired on TODAY.