Federal website to order free at-home coronavirus tests is launching next week

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El presidente Joe Biden habla sobre la respuesta de su gobierno al COVID-19 en la Casa Blanca, el jueves 13 de enero de 2022, en Washington. (AP Foto/Andrew Harnik)
President Biden speaks about his administration's COVID-19 response during a briefing on Thursday. (Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Starting Wednesday, Americans can go to a federal website to request delivery of free rapid coronavirus tests to their homes, according to the White House.

The launch of covidtests.gov is an attempt to remedy nationwide shortages, but tests will be limited to four per home, the White House said Friday.

Last month, amid growing criticism about his administration's pandemic response and as tests became harder to come by, President Biden announced a plan to purchase 500 million at-home tests. This week, he announced that the administration will double the number to 1 billion in a longer-term commitment to make testing more available.

To order tests, Americans will need to provide their name and residential mailing address; shipping will be free. A call line will also be established for those unable to access the website.

Americans should expect a wait after ordering. Officials said tests will “usually ship” within seven to 12 days, and will be sent through the U.S. Postal Service.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at-home testing when people are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, such as a fever, cough, sore throat and muscle aches, or as part of test-to-stay policies in schools and workplaces, or after they've been exposed.

"So, five days after they’ve been exposed to someone who has COVID-19," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said this week. "And, certainly, if you’re going to gather with family, if you’re going to a gathering where people are immunocompromised or where there are elderly or where you have people who might be unvaccinated ... that might be an opportunity you’d want to test."

Starting Saturday, private insurance companies will be required to cover the cost of up to eight at-home rapid tests a month.

The administration is also expected to announce a plan next week to make high-quality face masks available for free. Public health experts have repeatedly warned that cloth masks do not provide enough protection against the more contagious Omicron variant, recommending that people wear N95 or KN95 masks.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that the investments weren't coming late, as some health experts have suggested, and that the administration has already provided masks “across the country.”

“We have built a stockpile of 750 million masks in the government,” she said. “And this is about expanding and building upon providing high quality masks out to people across the country.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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