Starting Wednesday, Jan. 19, free tests can be ordered at covidtests.gov, according to the website. But late Tuesday morning, many users reported they had been able to place their orders already.
A White House spokesperson confirmed the site was launched in a “beta phase” Tuesday and was “operating at limited capacity ahead of its official launch,” which remains scheduled for Wednesday.
“This is standard practice to address troubleshooting and ensure as smooth of an official launch tomorrow as possible,” the spokesperson told NBC News. “We expect the website to officially launch mid-morning tomorrow.”
“The tests will be completely free—there are no shipping costs and you don’t need to enter a credit card number,” the website states.
Some Americans will be able to order free COVID-19 tests on the new federal government website a day early.
While COVIDTests.gov was expected to start accepting orders on Wednesday, an “Order free at-home tests” button was added Tuesday, which brings users to Usps.com/covidtests to order four at-home free tests.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday the site is in its beta phase to allow troubleshooting.
“We can’t guarantee there won’t be a bug or two,” Psaki said, “but the best tech teams across the administration and the postal service are working hard to make this a success.”
“COVID-19 tests will start shipping in late January. USPS will only send one set of 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests to valid residential addresses.” as per the website.
Some users immediately identified at least one problem: Orders made by different people living in the same apartment building but in different units were rejected as duplicate, according to some tweets. Americans are supposed to be able to order up to four kits per address. Once ordered, tests are to be mailed within seven to 12 days.
A credit card isn’t needed to order the free tests and there is no cost, unlike the insurance reimbursement program that started Saturday where many will have to submit receipts in order to get the tests for free.
The tests are part of the Biden administration’s purchase of 500 million tests last month to help tackle a record surge in infections.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO RECEIVE THE TESTS?
The White House says “tests will typically ship within 7-12 days of ordering” through the U.S. Postal Service. USPS reports shipping times of 1-3 days for its first-class package service in the continental United States. Shipments to Alaska, Hawaii, Army Post Office (APO), Fleet Post Office (FPO) and Diplomatic Post Office (DPO) addresses will be sent through Priority Mail.
HOW MANY TESTS CAN I ORDER FROM THE WEBSITE?
The White House says that “to promote broad access,” shipments from covidtests.gov will initially be limited to four rapid tests per residential address, no matter the number of occupants.
WHAT IF I HAVE MORE THAN 4 PEOPLE IN A HOUSEHOLD?
According to the website, the limit will remain four per residential address.
“To promote broad access, the initial program will only allow 4 free individual tests per residential address,” the site states.
WHICH HOME TEST WILL I GET?
That will vary. The federal government has secured more than 420 million tests for distribution through covidtests.gov already, with plans to increase the order to 1 billion tests in the coming weeks. All of the tests supplied will be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and are capable of detecting the more-transmissible omicron variant of COVID-19, which is the dominant strain in the U.S. While they are packaged differently and may use slightly different procedures, officials said, the test mechanisms of detection and effectiveness are generally the same. All tests will come with detailed instructions.
CAN I CHOOSE WHICH TEST I GET?
According to the site, people will not be able to choose which brand of at-home tests they receive, but “all tests distributed as part of this program are FDA-authorized at-home rapid antigen tests.”
WHAT IF MY SHIPMENT NEVER ARRIVES?
The government says people who experience problems with their testing shipments should contact USPS.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO TEST FOR COVID?
The CDC states that anyone who may have been exposed to someone with COVID should test five days after their exposure, or as soon as symptoms occur.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU TEST POSITIVE USING AN AT-HOME TEST?
Those who test positive using an at-home test are asked to follow the latest CDC guidelines and communicate the results to their healthcare provider, who is responsible for reporting test results to the state health department.
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