By DARLENE SUPERVILLE – Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden has said the federal government will buy half a billion COVID-19 rapid test kits and distribute them free to people to use at home. But despite strong public demand for testing, it will be several more weeks before these kits are available to ship. The administration is still working on the details of how the program works.
DOES THE GOVERNMENT HAVE THE TESTS?
Not yet. As of this week, the Defense and Health and Human Services departments are “executing what is called an ‘fast-track emergency contract’,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. The contract should be signed soon.
WHEN WILL THE TEST KITS BE DELIVERED?
The first delivery is scheduled for early January. The 500 million kits will not arrive at the same time but will rather be delivered in batches.
MY PHARMACY HAS NO TESTS. HOW CAN I GET A FREE GOVERNMENT KIT?
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You’ll go to a new government website to request a kit, but the site won’t be functional until after the first batch of test kits have been delivered, Psaki said. She said the process was handled that way to avoid creating more confusion for the public. But the idea is that anyone who wants a test kit should go to this website and request one.
“We’re obviously not going to get the website up and running until tests are available,” Psaki said.
WHAT AT HOME TEST WILL I DO?
It’s unclear. But Psaki noted that the United States Food and Drug Administration has approved several different brands of rapid home tests that are currently on the market.
WILL I BE LIMITED TO ONE TEST OR CAN I REQUEST MORE THAN ONE?
TBD, Psaki said.
WHY BIDEN PURCHASES THESE TEST KITS?
This represents recognition by the President that the administration must do more to increase access to COVID-19 testing, which is an important tool in helping to 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 in order to avoid coming out and potentially spreading the disease.
But the demand for test kits has skyrocketed as the holidays approach and people have become anxious to test themselves and their families before traveling and as the easily transmissible omicron variant has spread rapidly within a matter of a few. weeks only to become the dominant strain in the United States.
Biden’s pledge of 500 million test kits builds on the administration’s earlier pledge to send 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 in March, the White House said. The exact cost will be known shortly.
IS THERE ANY OTHER WAY TO GET A FREE TEST KIT
Biden said in a speech on Tuesday that starting in January, private insurers would cover the cost of home testing. Thus, people will have the option of purchasing tests in a store or online and then requesting reimbursement from their health insurance.
The government will also give access to free home tests to people who may not have health insurance, Biden said.
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