Health insurers will now cover costs of home COVID tests
Starting Saturday, private health insurers will be required to cover up to eight home COVID-19 tests per month for people on their plans. Under the new policy, Americans will be able to either purchase home testing kits for free under their insurance, or submit receipts for the tests for reimbursement. PCR tests and rapid tests ordered or administered by a health provider will continue to be fully covered by insurance with no limit. In another step to help Americans get access to tests, on Wednesday, the federal government will launch a website to begin making 500 million at-home COVID-19 tests available via mail. The administration also is scaling up emergency rapid-testing sites in areas experiencing the greatest surges in cases.
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Winter Storm Izzy to hit the South this weekend
After pasting the Upper Midwest with up to a foot of snow in some areas, Winter Storm Izzy is forecasted to dive into the South on Saturday and into Sunday. The storm is expected to bring snow into cities such as Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee, and Charlotte, North Carolina. Ice will be a particular concern with the storm in portions of the Carolinas. Meanwhile, Atlanta could see its first measurable snow in four years. The winter weather is expected to bring major travel disruptions throughout the Martin Luther King Jr., holiday weekend, AccuWeather said.
Djokovic moves back to detention as he continues to fight deportation
Novak Djokovic was reported to be back in immigration detention Saturday after his legal challenge to avoid being deported from Australia for being unvaccinated for COVID-19 was moved to three judges of a higher court. A Federal Court hearing has been scheduled for Sunday, a day before the men’s No. 1-ranked tennis player and nine-time Australian Open champion was due to begin his title defense at the first Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year. Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Friday blocked the 34-year-old’s visa, which was originally revoked when he arrived in Melbourne on Jan. 5. But it was restored Monday by a judge on procedural grounds, because Djokovic was not allowed to have a lawyer with him at the airport. Djokovic’s lawyers filed documents in court on Saturday that revealed Hawke had stated that “Djokovic is perceived by some as a talisman of a community of anti-vaccination sentiment.” The minister said that Djokovic’s presence may be a risk to the health and “good order” of the Australian public.
CDC COVID guidance for cruises to become optional
The CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order will expire Saturday at which point the health agency’s COVID guidance for cruise ships will become voluntary. The program includes guidance and recommendations for cruise ships to keep operating in a way that fosters a safer and healthier environment for passengers, crew and impacted communities, according to the CDC. But “voluntary” doesn’t mean cruise ships won’t be regulated by the CDC – regardless of whether or not they opt into the program, Captain Aimee Treffiletti, who leads the CDC’s maritime unit, told USA TODAY. “It’s very important to keep in mind that ships will still be under CDC’s regulatory authority,” Treffiletti said. Cruise ships, regardless of participation in the voluntary program, will still be required to report every COVID case on board, just through a “different mechanism” than the way they currently do. The CDC also reserves the right to issue a “no sail” order for a ship if the agency has concerns about what is happening on board.
NFL playoffs kick off with “Super Wild Card Weekend”
The NFL playoffs begin Saturday with two wild-card games, the Cincinnati Bengals hosting the Las Vegas Raiders (4:30 p.m. ET, NBC) and the New England Patriots visiting the Buffalo Bills (8:15 p.m. ET, CBS). The Bengals have lose their previous eight postseason contests, and have not won a playoff game since 1991. In Buffalo, temperatures are expected to be historically low for the third meeting of the season between the AFC East rivals. There are three more games on the schedule Sunday: Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Philadelphia Eagles (1 p.m. ET, Fox), the San Francisco 49ers head on the road to take on an old NFC rival in the Dallas Cowboys (4:30 p.m., CBS) and the Pittsburgh Steelers will play at the Kansas City Chiefs (8:15 p.m., NBC).
Contributing: The Associated Press