Free COVID Test Kits: Who Will Get Them First?

by TK Sanders
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The federal government’s free in-home COVID testing program officially launched today after Tuesday’s “soft” beta launch. Users can now request free rapid tests directly from the government via their website.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the soft launch helped programmers troubleshoot potential bugs in the software. With so much public goodwill riding on this investment, government officials certainly want the program to launch without a hitch.

“We can’t guarantee there won’t be a bug or two but the best tech teams across the administration and the Postal Service are working hard to make this a success,” Psaki said.

Who can order tests, and when will they arrive?

As Outsider noted yesterday, users can request up to four tests per household. The government purchased an estimated 500 million home tests to initially supply the robust program. The coronavirus pandemic will enter its third year at the forefront of national (and world) discourse in March.

Omicron variant cases continue to rise, as well. The government hopes more access to testing will encourage sick Americans to isolate and slow the spread. Currently, public testing centers face massive lines, both in cars and on the sidewalks.

Tests are free, and users can track their shipments via the site, as well, if they provide an email. The Biden administration has not specified a date for shipment, yet. But spokespeople for the program estimate tests will arrive in “late January” between one and two weeks after ordering.

If you live in a particularly hard-hit city with rising cases, your tests could be prioritized. NPR reports that ZIP codes that have experienced high rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths will receive priority in shipping. According to the White House, the first 20% of each day’s orders will go to those areas.

The U.S. Postal Service intends to ship U.S. orders via First-Class Service. Alaska, Hawaii, Territories, and APO/FPO/DPO shipments will be sent Priority Mail.

What to do if your shipment is lost or delayed

If you experience issues fulfilling your order, you can reach out to the postal service HERE or call their service number, 1-800-ASK-USPS.

The government also intends to establish a phone line for customers who prefer to call in their order rather than submit it digitally. The White House has not announced the number, yet. But they have said that local and national organizations will be helping in the rollout. The aim is to provide a comprehensive, concerted effort to provide tests to all of America.

Roughly 700,000 Americans logged into the beta test website at some point on Tuesday during the soft launch. Some Twitter users reported issues of apartment buildings causing confusion in the system. The site apparently thought some apartment buildings to be freestanding households, and was limiting purchases to just four tests, rather than accounting for all residents.

Outsider.com