Feds Launch Website for Free COVID Tests Early

White House says it is operating at a 'limited capacity'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 14, 2022 4:20 PM CST
Free Test Website Goes Live Wednesday
President Biden speaks about the government's COVID-19 response Thursday in Washington.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Update: The Biden administration on Tuesday quietly launched its website for Americans to request free at-home COVID-19 tests, a day before the site was scheduled to officially go online. The website, COVIDTests.gov, now includes a link for Americans to access an order form run by the US Postal Service, the AP reports. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the website was in "beta testing" and operating at a “limited capacity” ahead of its official launch. The website will officially launch midmorning Wednesday, Psaki said. She added that the administration was anticipating a "bug or two," but had IT experts from across the government working to get the site ready. Our story from Jan. 14 follows:

The federal website where Americans can request free COVID-19 tests will begin accepting orders on Wednesday as the White House looks to address nationwide shortages, but supplies will be limited to just four free tests per home. Starting Jan. 19, the website COVIDTests.gov will provide tests at no cost, including no shipping fee, the White House announced Friday. As he faced criticism for low inventory and long lines for testing, President Biden announced last month that the US would purchase 500 million at-home tests to launch the program, the AP reports, and on Thursday the president announced that he was doubling the order to 1 billion tests.

But Americans shouldn't expect a rapid turnaround on the orders, and they will have to plan ahead and request the tests well before they meet federal guidelines for when to use a test. The White House said "tests will typically ship within 7-12 days of ordering" through the US Postal Service, which reports shipping times of 1-3 days for its first-class package service in the continental US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at-home testing when experiencing COVID-19 systems including fever, cough, sore throat, respiratory symptoms, and muscle aches, five days after a potential coronavirus exposure, or as part of test-to-stay protocols in schools and workplaces.

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Officials emphasized that the federal website is just one way for people to procure COVID-19 tests. Starting on Saturday, private insurance companies will be required to cover the cost of at-home rapid tests, allowing Americans to be reimbursed for tests they purchase at pharmacies and online retailers. That covers up to eight tests per month. The White House said the four-test limit on website orders will be applied to each residential address and will apply to the first tranche of 500 million tests. It estimates that the cost of purchasing and distributing the first block of tests at $4 billion.

(More COVID tests stories.)

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