WASHINGTON — U.S. residents will be able to order a free at- home Covid 19 test from the federal government on January 19 as part of an effort by the Biden administration to send 500 million of the tests.
Each household will be able to request four tests via a new government-run website, and tests are to be delivered in seven to 12 days, a senior administration official said. The tests will be shipped through the U.S. The Postal Service, which has been staffing up and keeping staff up to meet the added demand, has been keeping on holiday staff, the official said.
The administration has 420 million tests under contract, with tens of millions currently in the possession of the government, the official said. The official said they are confident that they will be able to fill all orders in the seven -- to 12 day window, even though not all tests have been procured.
The program is intended to make sure people have quick at-home tests available in the weeks ahead, the official said. This is just one more program on top of a number of programs that we have been putting in place. Several new tests have been approved over the last month adding to the country's capacity due to a surge in demand driven by the omicron variant. It could take a few more months for the United States to meet its total of 500 million tests available to ship, according to projections from the manufacturers.
The White House said that the US has gone from 24 million at home rapid tests in August to 375 million in January. The tests will be done on top of the existing supply of tests, officials said.
The Biden administration estimates that it will cost $4 billion to buy and distribute the tests.
A second administration official said that individuals should use an at-home test if they begin to have symptoms at least five days after coming in contact with an infected person, or if they are gathering indoors with a group of people at risk of severe disease or who are notvaccinated, if they begin to have symptoms at least five days after coming in close contact with an infected person.
The administration is now requiring health insurers to cover the cost of eight tests per person for those who purchase an at-home test from a retailer as of Jan. 15. The White House said this week it was sending 10 million more rapid tests to schools.