(Trends Wide) –– The new page of the United States government is already operating that allows you to request free rapid covid-19 antigen tests to perform at home. By simply providing names and an address, families can go to COVIDtests.gov and request up to four free tests to be delivered to their homes.
The website went live as the Biden administration faces mounting pressure to fix a shortage of coronavirus tests amid rising omicron cases. The White House says it already has millions of tests ready to go. In fact, it will spend $4 billion to deliver the first 500 million tests to homes across the US.
The move now shifts test supply pressure to the US Postal Service, which says it is ready to start deliveries.
“We have been working closely with the government and are well prepared to receive and deliver test kits on the first day the program launches,” Postal Service Director General Louis DeJoy said in a statement.
Right now, however, the Postal Service is already struggling in some multi-state communities with mail delays due to omicrons.
As of Tuesday, more than 19,200 postal workers had covid-19 or were in quarantine. A figure just shy of the maximum the agency recorded during the pandemic last January and more than double the number just two weeks ago, according to the American Postal Workers Union.
Late last week, the mail finally arrived at Derek Reynolds’ home in Maryland after almost three weeks.
“It’s a very strange and frustrating situation to have things that you know are going to come, but you just don’t know when,” Reynolds said. “I would be very concerned about getting a test in a timely manner,” he added.
Last week, Deputy Eleanor Holmes Norton sent a letter to the Postal Service expressing concern about mail delays in the city of Washington and layoffs at USPS.
“There are homes where mail has not been delivered for days,” the Democrat said. “If we can’t get mail, how are we going to get these COVID-19 tests?” she questioned.
The Postal Service has now increased its operations. It is setting up 43 centers that will pack and ship the tests, while also hiring more than 7,000 temporary workers, many of whom were hired for the holidays, according to the American Postal Workers Union.
Last week, the USPS defended its service performance during the spike in omicron cases in a press release. The agency noted that 90% of first-class mail was delivered on time in the first week of January.
“The Postal Service’s mitigation plans continue to work well,” the statement said. USPS declined to provide Trends Wide with any further comment or logistical plans.
Shipping of covid-19 test kits
But even if everything goes well, don’t expect delivery to be overnight. The White House anticipates that most tests will be shipped within seven to 12 days. In addition, deliveries will start at the end of January.
The Biden administration says tests should be used in three situations: if you have symptoms of covid-19, at least five days after exposure, or before meeting in closed spaces with people who are unvaccinated or at higher risk of severe illness from covid-19.
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert who sits on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, advises Americans to request tests before they need them.
“If you wait until you have a problem, it’s possible that by the time the tests come, the optimal time to have them is past,” Schaffner said. “If you’ve been exposed and don’t have the tests available, you’re going to have to find testing resources elsewhere,” he added.