New Government Website Active for Ordering Covid Tests

WASHINGTON – Biden administration New website allowing people to order up to four free coronavirus tests at home It went live quietly on Tuesday, the day before its official launch, and demand was already looking substantial.

There were more than 1 million visitors total on the homepage and order page. At some point on Tuesday evening – more than 40 times what is found on the next highest traffic government site, the U.S. Postal Service’s package tracking page analytics.usa.govmonitors traffic on participating federal websites.

At a press conference at the White House on Tuesday, Jen Psaki, President Biden’s press secretary, said the official launch will take place Wednesday morning, but has begun taking orders in what the site describes as the “beta testing phase.” US Digital Service, the government’s technology support division.

Also Wednesday, the White House will announce that it has made 400 million “high-quality” non-surgical N95 masks available for free at community health centers and retail pharmacies across the country. Officials said the masks would be removed from the Strategic National Stockpile, describing the effort as “the largest distribution of personal protective equipment in US history.”

The two moves suggest the Biden administration is trying to accelerate the coronavirus response as the highly contagious Omicron variant has caused a spike in cases across the country. The administration initially resisted the idea of ​​sending tests to Americans’ homes, but has now commissioned the U.S. Postal Service to handle orders and deliveries.

But it wasn’t long before the pilot test revealed some obvious glitches.

Some people living in apartments said they were prevented from ordering tests if other tenants had already made a claim for the same building. Some people who get their mail from their mailboxes have reported confusion with ordering, as the site includes a disclaimer that says orders will only be shipped to valid residential addresses.

The Postal Service said in a statement that the problems were limited to “a small percentage of orders” and told customers make a service request or contact the Postal Service help desk at 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777).

Still, it was a disappointment for those who had trouble ordering. Gina Lindo, 46, requested four tests for herself on the federal website Tuesday afternoon and requested that they be sent to her single family home on Long Island. But when Ms. Lindo tried to request tests for her parents, who lived in a Queens apartment, she got an error message.

The message read, “Home Covid-19 tests have already been ordered for this address.” “We can’t process duplicate orders for the same address.”

Ms. Lindo said she immediately called her mother to ask if she wanted the tests anyway. He wasn’t there, but they found out you had a neighbor upstairs.

“They didn’t get tested, they’re sold everywhere,” said Ms. Lindo. “I know it’s probably a line in the code on the USPS website that needs to be changed, but I hope they change it quickly so we can order the tests.”

Her mother teaches English as a second language at a senior center once a week and said she therefore wants to take tests regularly. She and Ms. Lindo’s father, both in their 70s, are hoping to take tests at home before their grandchild’s upcoming 16th birthday party and their upcoming appointment with their doctor.

Mr. Biden has experience with website submissions. While vice president, he and President Barack Obama presided over the disastrous launch of the United States. health.govThe online health insurance marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. Jeff Zients, currently Mr. Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, said: recover the problematic site, this crashed repeatedly under the crush of initial users. It was created after the US Digital Service.

visitors, can click on a Postal Service webpage where they can order four tests per household free of charge, also available in Spanish. The website says orders will usually ship within seven to 12 days.

“We can’t guarantee that there won’t be one or two mistakes,” said Ms. Psaki, “but the management and the best technical teams across the Postal Service are working hard to make it a success.”

Matching test supply with demand has been a persistent challenge for both the Trump and Biden administrations, and Mr. be subject to criticism As Americans struggled to get tested during the emergence of the Omicron variant, at-home rapid testing did not increase the supply fast enough.

Experts say there are three situations when people should test at home: if they start to show symptoms of Covid-19; have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the virus five or more days ago; or if they plan to gather indoors with someone at high risk for Covid-19 and want to make sure they are negative.

But the Omicron variant put intense tension on the provision of both laboratory and in-home tests. Shortly after Thanksgiving, rapid tests began to disappear from pharmacy shelves, with long queues forming in clinics for polymerase chain reaction or PCR tests.

The Biden administration responded by ordering one billion home tests to be distributed free to the public in two 500 million batches. Administration officials said the second batch won’t be available until spring.

The administration also provides free rapid testing at community health centers and rural health clinics. And from Saturday, privately insured people were able to claim reimbursement for tests purchased. Insurers will need to conduct eight home tests per person per month, although some say it may take time to get the reimbursement system in place.

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