By DARLENE SUPERVILLE and ZEKE MILLER – Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden announced last month that the federal government would purchase 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 still be several weeks before these kits are available to ship, White House officials said.
DOES THE GOVERNMENT HAVE THE TESTS?
Not yet. This week marked the close of an initial bidding period for test makers to ask defense and health and human services departments for contracts to perform the tests. The first contract has already been signed and additional contracts will be signed in the coming weeks, officials said. The 500 million kits will not arrive at the same time. They will be delivered in batches over several months.
WHEN WILL THE TEST KITS BE DELIVERED?
The federal government is expected to receive delivery of the first batch of tests “within the next week,” according to White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients. Americans will start receiving them “in the coming weeks,” he added.
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MY PHARMACY HAS NO TESTS. HOW CAN I GET A FREE GOVERNMENT KIT?
You will go to a new government website to request a kit, but the site will not work until after the first batch of test kits have been delivered to the government. “We’re obviously not going to bring the website online until tests are available,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last month.
The Postal Service will take care of running and shipping the tests to American gates, officials said.
WHAT AT HOME TEST WILL I DO?
It’s unclear. But Psaki noted that the Food and Drug Administration has approved several different brands of rapid home tests that are currently on the market. Although they are packaged differently and may use slightly different procedures, officials said, their mechanisms for detection and effectiveness are generally the same.
WILL I BE LIMITED TO ONE TEST OR CAN I REQUEST MORE THAN ONE?
To be determined. Officials are also working on policies regarding how often people can request a free test. This should come with a new emphasis on educating Americans on best practices for when they should take a test.
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.
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
From January 15, private insurers will be required to cover the cost of home tests, in the same way they cover the cost of PCR lab tests. People will have the option of purchasing tests in a store or online and then requesting reimbursement from their health insurance. Those with public health insurance through Medicare or Medicaid, or without insurance, will be directed to the next website to order tests or to community health centers in their area offering free tests.
WILL THE GOVERNMENT PROGRAM MAKE IT HARDER FOR ME TO FIND A DRUG TEST?
White House officials say government testing is coming from new manufacturing capabilities and should not interfere with existing supplies that pharmacies, health clinics and state governments rely on.
“These are additional tests,” Zients said, made possible by the fact that the FDA has cleared many new ones in recent months. “So there is a lot more capacity for rapid testing.”
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