Biden administration launches website for free at-home Covid tests a day early | Coronavirus

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The Biden administration quietly launched its website Tuesday allowing Americans to request free at-home Covid-19 tests, a day before the site officially went live.

The website, CovidTests.gov, offers a form run by the US Postal Service through which people can order four home tests per residential address.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the website was in “beta testing” and operating at “limited capacity” before its official launch. The website will officially launch mid-morning on Wednesday, Psaki said.

Traffic to the site quickly exploded, but its exit was not without problems. Some users filed a complaint on social media they had been prevented from ordering tests because the tool apparently did not take into account apartment buildings with several households at the same address.

“I live in an apartment building so it’s an uphill race with my neighbors to see who gets these free tests,” one user wrote on Twitter.

The White House says that “to promote broad access,” covidtests.gov mailings will initially be limited to four rapid tests per residential address, regardless of the number of occupants. This means that a family of five would receive the same number of tests as someone living alone.

The USPS is aware of “very limited cases” of addresses that are not registered as multi-unit buildings and are blocked from ordering Covid tests, a Biden spokesperson told the Guardian.

“This occurs in a small percentage of orders,” the USPS said in a statement, adding that those affected should contact USPS Customer Service to resolve the issue.

The new program marks Joe Biden’s latest step in addressing criticism of low inventory and long lines for testing during a nationwide spike in Covid-19 cases due to the Omicron variant.

At times, more than 750,000 people were accessing the website at the same time, according to public government tracking data, but it was not immediately clear how many orders had been placed. For a time, the increase in traffic saw the Covid test website overtake traffic to all other government websites combined.

Biden announced last month that the United States would purchase 500 million tests to launch the program and on Thursday the president announced he was doubling the order to 1 billion.

But Americans shouldn’t expect quick order turnaround and will need to plan ahead and request testing well before they meet federal guidelines for when to use one.

The White House said “tests will typically ship within seven to 12 days of ordering” via USPS, which reports one to three day shipping times for its first-class parcel service in the continental United States. .

Officials stressed that the federal website is just a way for people to get tests, and shortages of home test kits have shown signs of easing as supply has increased on the market.

As of Saturday, private insurance companies are required to cover the cost of rapid home tests, allowing Americans to be reimbursed for the tests they purchase from pharmacies and online retailers. This covers up to eight tests per month.

The White House estimates the cost of procuring and distributing the first 500 million tests at around $4 billion. That will be paid for with money from the $1.9 billion coronavirus relief bill that Biden signed into law in March.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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