EXPLAINER: Where are the COVID-19 tests that Biden promised?

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden announced last month that the federal government will purchase 500 million rapid COVID-19 test kits and distribute them free to people to use at home. But despite high public demand for tests, it will still be several more weeks before these kits are available for shipment, White House officials said.

DOES THE GOVERNMENT HAVE THE EVIDENCE?

Not yet. This week marked the close of an initial bidding period for test manufacturers to apply to the departments of Defense and Health and Human Services for contracts to perform the tests. The first contract, valued at $ 51.6 million, was awarded Thursday and a second was awarded on Friday for 13.3 million tests. Additional contracts will be signed in the coming weeks, authorities said. The 500 million kits will not arrive at the same time. They will be delivered in batches over months.

WHEN WILL THE TEST KITS BE DELIVERED?

The federal government is expected to receive the first batch of tests “within the next week,” according to White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients. Americans will begin to receive them “in the coming weeks,” he added.

MY DRUGSTORE HAS NO PROOF. HOW CAN I GET A FREE KIT FROM THE GOVERNMENT?

You will access a new government website to order a kit, but the site will not be operational until the first batch of test kits has been delivered to the government. “Obviously, we are not going to put the website up until evidence is available,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last month.

The Postal Service will handle the fulfillment and delivery of the evidence to the Americans’ doorstep, authorities said.

WHAT PROOF AT HOME WILL I RECEIVE?

It is not clear. But Psaki noted that the Food and Drug Administration has approved several different brands of rapid home tests that are currently on the market. While they are packaged differently and may use slightly different procedures, officials said, their detection mechanisms and effectiveness are generally the same.

WILL I BE LIMITED TO ONE TRIAL OR CAN I REQUEST MULTIPLE?

To be determined. Officials are also working on policies for how often people can request a free trial. That is expected to come with a new focus on educating Americans on best practices on when to take a test.

WHY WILL BIDEN BUY THESE TEST KITS?

It represents an acknowledgment by the President that the administration must do more to increase access to COVID-19 testing, which is an important tool to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

In cases where infected people show symptoms or not, testing is the only way to find out if they have the virus to avoid being away from home and potentially spreading the disease.

Demand for test kits skyrocketed as the holidays approached and people were eager to test themselves and their families before traveling and as the easily transmissible omicron variant quickly spread in just a few weeks to become the dominant strain in the US.

Biden’s promise of 500 million test kits builds on the administration’s previous commitment to ship 50 million rapid tests to community health centers across the country.

HOW MUCH WILL THE PROGRAM COST?

The purchase will be paid for with money from the $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill that Biden signed into law in March, the White House said. The exact cost will be known soon.

IS THERE ANOTHER WAY TO GET A FREE TRIAL KIT?

Starting January 15, private insurers will have to cover the cost of home testing, in the same way that they cover the cost of PCR lab tests. People will have the option of purchasing tests in a store or online, and then seeking reimbursement from their health insurance provider. Those with public health insurance through Medicare or Medicaid, or without insurance, will be directed to the next website to request tests or to community health centers in their area that offer free tests.

WILL THE GOVERNMENT PROGRAM MAKE ME MORE DIFFICULT TO FIND A TEST AT THE DRUG STORE?

White House officials say the government tests come from a new manufacturing capacity and should not interfere with existing supplies that pharmacies, health clinics and state governments depend on.

“These are additional tests,” Zients said, made possible by the fact that the FDA has cleared many new tests in recent months. “So there is much more capacity for rapid tests.”

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