Biden Administration Starts Taking Orders for Free Covid-19 Tests
Website opens in pilot phase a day ahead of its planned debut
The tests are likely to start to ship in late January, the U.S. Postal Service says.
By Brianna Abbott Follow
Updated Jan. 18, 2022 4:58 pm ET
The Biden administration began taking orders for free Covid-19 tests on Tuesday, a day ahead of the planned launch of its website for ordering and distributing rapid Covid-19 tests to Americans.
The website is operating at limited capacity ahead of the official launch, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. She called it a standard practice to address troubleshooting and ensure as smooth a launch as possible. The website is expected to officially begin operation midmorning on Wednesday.
People can go to the site, covidtests.gov, and follow a link that takes them to an order form on the U.S. Postal Service website. Only one order for four tests can be placed per address, according to the form. People can provide an email address to receive updates on an order.
The free tests are expected to start to ship in late January, according to the USPS website, and would usually be sent out within seven to 12 days of ordering. Each order would contain four tests, according to the website.
People were expected to be able to place orders for free Covid-19 tests on federal websites starting Wednesday, part of the Biden administration’s latest plans for curbing the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. Covid-19 rapid tests have been in short supply in recent weeks as the holidays and a surge spurred by Omicron supercharged demand. The administration’s plan to purchase and distribute one billion tests has put further pressure on the supply.
The federal government has already contracted to buy more than 420 million tests as part of the effort, a senior administration official said on Friday. The government has contracted with test makers Abbott Rapid Dx North America LLC, iHealth Labs Inc. and Roche Diagnostics Corp., with estimated contract completion dates of March 14, according to the Department of Defense. Health officials have also worked with warehouses and suppliers to find and purchase some existing inventory.
Before this past three-day holiday weekend began and disrupted some data reporting, the U.S. seven-day average for newly reported Covid-19 cases was around 800,000 a day, all-time highs, Johns Hopkins University data show.
There are some signs that some early Omicron hot spots, like major urban areas in the Northeast, are starting to cool off.
In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday cited data on the prevalence of the virus that causes Covid-19 collected at a Boston-area wastewater plant. Such data is gaining interest as a potential early-detection method that isn’t buffeted by the testing and timing issues that can mar reporting of positive cases. Recent samples from the state’s Deer Island Treatment Plant show the seven-day average for virus detection soared to record highs by early January, but have plunged since then.
Mr. Baker said this tracks with Omicron patterns seen in the U.K., South Africa and other parts of the U.S.
“You just never know, but it certainly does look like we are very much on the backside of the Omicron surge in Massachusetts,” he said.
—Jon Kamp and Alex Leary contributed to this article.
Write to Brianna Abbott at firstname.lastname@example.org