ENCINITAS, CA — Households in Encinitas can order up to four free rapid antigen coronavirus tests beginning Wednesday with the launch of a federal government website — covidtests.gov — to help ease a nationwide shortage of the tests.
Although the White House said orders would begin Wednesday, several people have been able to place orders on Tuesday. The website is “currently in its beta phase” and operating at a “limited capacity ahead of its official launch,” The Associated Press reported. The official launch is still set for mid-morning Wednesday.
The federal government bought 500 million COVID-19 rapid tests in December in response to criticism over a low inventory of at-home tests and long lines at testing sites. Last week, President Joe Biden announced he’s ordering another 500 million tests, bringing the total to 1 billion.
Americans must provide only their names and addresses — no insurance or credit card is required — to receive the COVID-19 tests. There’s no shipping fee.
Encinitas residents need to plan ahead to have the rapid COVID-19 tests on hand before they need them — whether as part of test-to-stay protocols in schools and workplaces, or after potential exposure to COVID-19. Orders will be shipped within seven to 12 days, according to senior Biden administration officials briefing reporters Friday.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at-home testing for people who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms five days after a potential exposure. Those symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, respiratory symptoms and muscle aches.
“Certainly if you’re going to gather with family, if you’re going to a gathering where people are immunocompromised or where they’re elderly or where you have people who might be unvaccinated or poorly protected from a vaccine, that might be an opportunity you want to test,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, said last week.
The administration said it worked closely with the U.S. Postal Service, which reports one- to three-day delivery of first-class mail in the continental United States, to set up the website and ensure the tests can be delivered quickly.
The federal website isn’t the only way to get rapid antigen coronavirus tests. A government order requiring private insurance companies to cover at-home tests took effect Saturday, though most companies will require upfront payment at pharmacies and online retailers.
The cost to buy and distribute the first round of tests is estimated at $4 billion.