Free COVID-19 test rollout begins early online

A day ahead of the scheduled rollout of free COVID-19 tests distributed by the Biden administration, some Americans are already placing orders for their free deliveries through a form posted by the U.S. Postal Service.

The White House announced last week that it would publicly launch the site on Wednesday. But, early users of the site Tuesday morning could already see a link to order free tests. This was a small rollout which appears to have been extended to additional visitors Tuesday afternoon.

The site has already attracted a lot of interest from the public, surpassing all government websites, according to a website tracks traffic to government websites .. By early Tuesday afternoon, almost 380,000 had visited the test website, while interest in tracking packages sent using the U.S. Postal service was just over 31,500.

” It will be officially launched tomorrow morning. “It’s currently in beta testing,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday.

Every U.S. residential address is eligible to order four rapid antigen COVID-19 tests for free from the Postal Service, which will begin shipping tests in late January.

Some Americans were already able to order free at-home COVID-19 tests through the White House’s program earlier this week, granted priority access through a portal launched with the National Association of Community Health Workers for people living in “high-risk” zip codes.

“Orders will be prioritized for equitable distribution based on communities that are hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the NACHW’s website says.

The White House also stated that it will launch a hotline to allow Americans to place their tests by phone if they are having trouble ordering online.

The administration says that its four-test limit was imposed “to promote broad access” to the program. To expand distribution, it has launched additional efforts, including a requirement that public insurers cover the cost for over-the-counter home tests.

Federal health officials have expressed confidence in the Postal Service’s ability to gather orders for tests and accommodate a possible surge in demand.

” We didn’t begin from scratch. This is why the Postal Service has been an integral partner. They already have a website that does sell goods to the public and has for quite some time,” an administration official told reporters at a White House briefing last week.

Orders of the COVID-19 tests will be delivered for free via first-class mail. Despite anecdotal reports of delayed shipments hampered by winter storms and COVID-19 outbreaks, the U.S. Postal Service claimed last week that 90% of first-class mail was delivered on time during the first week of January.

“The 650,000 women and men of the United States Postal Service are ready to deliver and proud to play a critical role in supporting the health needs of the American public. In a statement, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy stated that they have worked closely with the Administration to be ready to receive and deliver the test kits the day after the program launch.

A spokesperson from the Postal Service refused to give further details on the launch.

Some on social media have already claimed to have encountered some issues in submitting their orders, ranging from ordering to places not listed as residential addresses to trying to get deliveries to different units in the same building.

” Every website launch comes with risk. Psaki said that while we can’t promise there won’t have bugs, the top tech teams from the Administration and Postal Service work hard to ensure this is a successful launch.

Alexander Tin

CBS News journalist covering pandemics and public health.

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