WASHINGTON – The Biden administration on Wednesday will launch a website where Americans can order up to four free COVID-19 testing kits per person, according to a senior administration official.
The tests, part of the Biden administration’s purchase of 500 million tests last month to help tackle a record surge in infections, will be available at COVIDTests.gov and mailed to homes within 7-12 days through the U.S. Postal Service, according to the official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss details of the announcement.
President Joe Biden announced earlier this week the administration would double its order to 1 billion at-home COVID-19 tests amid a shortage of tests nationwide as U.S. cases spike. The second batch of testing kits will also be distributed for free through the website, officials said.
The White House is ramping up efforts to make testing more accessible and affordable after facing criticism from both Republicans and Democrats over the lack of inventory of COVID-19 tests as the highly transmissible omicron variant ripped across the country, shuttering schools, overwhelming hospitals and frustrating Americans exhausted by two years of an ongoing pandemic.
Earlier this month, a group of Biden’s former health advisers released a series of articles calling for the administration to change its approach to combatting COVID-19 and urging Americans to learn to live with the virus after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came under fire for issuing confusing guidance on isolation.
The administration has so far procured more than 420 million of the first order of tests and are working to finalize contracts for the remaining 80 million, according to an official.
The White House also plans to launch a call line to help those unable to access the website to place orders and will work with national and local community organizations to meet requests from the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities, according to officials.
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Aside from the free tests available through the website, private health insurers will be required to cover up to eight at-home tests per month for people through their insurance plans beginning Saturday. Americans will be able to either purchase tests for free through their insurance or submit receipts for reimbursement.
The president is also expected to announce next week the steps he’s taking to make high-quality masks available for free, but details of how those would be distributed are still unclear.
The latest White House effort comes as hospitalizations for COVID-19 are setting new records, with some hospitals delaying elective surgeries while states are deploying National Guard members to health care facilities.
The White House is also sending military medical teams to New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Michigan and New Mexico to help confront an rise in COVID-19 cases.
Roughly 1 in 5 hospitals reported having “critical staff shortages” in data released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services, a USA TODAY analysis found. One in 4 anticipated critical shortages within the next week.