After a quiet “beta testing period” conducted yesterday, the Biden administration officially launched its website for free COVID-19 test ordering today. Now people can go to CovidTests.gov (also available in Spanish) to order up to four at-home rapid tests per household, free of charge, as reported by The New York Times.
And the demand is already apparent. By Tuesday evening, more than 1 million visitors had visited the site’s home page and ordering page, according to analytics.usa.gov, which monitors traffic on participating federal websites. The White house has partnered with the U.S. Postal Service to distribute the tests. Orders will usually ship in seven to 12 days, the website says.
The White House is also expected to announce today that it is making 400 million high-quality, nonsurgical N95 masks to be distributed free of charge at health centers and pharmacies across the U.S. Experts are saying this could possibly be the largest disbursement of personal protective equipment in U.S. history.
These two sudden moves by the Biden administration are most likely a response to the recent spike of COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant, as well as criticism that the federal government was not responding urgently enough after previously resisting the idea of free at-home tests.
The website has also already had some issues. Apparently, some folks living in apartment buildings have been denied tests if other residents of the same building had already ordered theirs, with the site mistakenly deducing they are from the same household.
Also, people who receive their mail at post office boxes reported problems ordering tests because the site includes a disclaimer that says orders would ship only to “valid residential addresses.”
The Postal Service responded with a statement explaining that the problems were confined to “a small percentage of orders” and recommended that customers having any issues file a service request or contact the Postal Service help desk at 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777).
“We can’t guarantee there won’t be a bug or two,” said President Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, at a White House news conference on Tuesday, “but the best tech teams across the administration and the Postal Service are working hard to make this a success.”