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U.S. begins offering 1B free COVID tests, but many more needed – The Denver Post

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WASHINGTON — For the first time, people across the U.S. can log on to a government website and order free, at-home COVID-19 tests. But the White House push may do little to ease the omicron surge, and experts say Washington will have to do a lot more to fix the country’s long-troubled testing system.

The website, COVIDTests.gov, allows people to order four at-home tests per household, regardless of citizenship status, and have them delivered by mail. But the tests won’t arrive for seven to 12 days, after omicron cases are expected to peak in many parts of the country.

The White House also announced Wednesday that it will begin making 400 million N95 masks available for free at pharmacies and community health centers. Both initiatives represent the kind of mass government investments long seen in parts of Europe and Asia, but delayed in the U.S.

Experts say the plan to distribute 1 billion tests is a good first step, but it must become a regular part of the pandemic response. In the same way that it has made vaccines free and plentiful, the government must use its purchasing power to assure a steady test supply, they say.

“The playbook for rapid tests should look exactly like the playbook for vaccines,” said Zoe McLaren, a health economist at the University Maryland. “They’re both things that help keep cases down and help keep COVID under control.”

A home test two-pack commonly sells for more than $20 at the store — if you can find one, amid the omicron-triggered rush to get tested. Since last week, insurance companies have been required to cover the cost of up to eight at-home rapid tests bought at drugstores or online retailers.

The government website’s limit of four tests may not go very far in some households.

Kristen Keymont, 30, is a voice and piano teacher who teaches online and shares a house in Ipswich, Massachusetts, with her partner and two other people. When one of her housemates tested positive just before Christmas, she and her partner spent $275 buying more than a dozen tests.

“One test each is nice, I guess,” she said. “I’m glad we have them, but we’re still going to need to buy more if one of us gets exposed.”

It would be better, she said, if requests were linked to each person rather than each residential address.

Also, some people who live in buildings with multiple units had their requests for tests rejected, with the website saying tests had already been ordered for that address. As those complaints surfaced on social media, people began sharing advice on how to enter apartment or unit numbers in a way that the website would accept them.



WASHINGTON — For the first time, people across the U.S. can log on to a government website and order free, at-home COVID-19 tests. But the White House push may do little to ease the omicron surge, and experts say Washington will have to do a lot more to fix the country’s long-troubled testing system.

The website, COVIDTests.gov, allows people to order four at-home tests per household, regardless of citizenship status, and have them delivered by mail. But the tests won’t arrive for seven to 12 days, after omicron cases are expected to peak in many parts of the country.

The White House also announced Wednesday that it will begin making 400 million N95 masks available for free at pharmacies and community health centers. Both initiatives represent the kind of mass government investments long seen in parts of Europe and Asia, but delayed in the U.S.

Experts say the plan to distribute 1 billion tests is a good first step, but it must become a regular part of the pandemic response. In the same way that it has made vaccines free and plentiful, the government must use its purchasing power to assure a steady test supply, they say.

“The playbook for rapid tests should look exactly like the playbook for vaccines,” said Zoe McLaren, a health economist at the University Maryland. “They’re both things that help keep cases down and help keep COVID under control.”

A home test two-pack commonly sells for more than $20 at the store — if you can find one, amid the omicron-triggered rush to get tested. Since last week, insurance companies have been required to cover the cost of up to eight at-home rapid tests bought at drugstores or online retailers.

The government website’s limit of four tests may not go very far in some households.

Kristen Keymont, 30, is a voice and piano teacher who teaches online and shares a house in Ipswich, Massachusetts, with her partner and two other people. When one of her housemates tested positive just before Christmas, she and her partner spent $275 buying more than a dozen tests.

“One test each is nice, I guess,” she said. “I’m glad we have them, but we’re still going to need to buy more if one of us gets exposed.”

It would be better, she said, if requests were linked to each person rather than each residential address.

Also, some people who live in buildings with multiple units had their requests for tests rejected, with the website saying tests had already been ordered for that address. As those complaints surfaced on social media, people began sharing advice on how to enter apartment or unit numbers in a way that the website would accept them.

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