WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has received more than 67 million requests for free at-home Covid tests through a government website launched last month, with 50 million of those orders shipped, said a White House official.
That's up from the 60 million orders the federal government said it had received by the end of January. About 10 million households who requested their tests last month still haven't received them, but those orders should be delivered in the coming days, said White House Covid coordinator Jeffrey Zients on Wednesday.
When the site launched, officials said the tests would typically ship within seven to 12 days after a household places an order. Zients said the U.S. Postal Service has been rapidly distributing the tests, with 60 percent delivered within 24 hours of being shipped and 90 percent arriving at their final destination in 48 hours.
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With each order containing four tests, Zients said the U.S. is on track to have delivered 200 million free Covid tests over the course of a month. The U.S. has contracts in place or in the works for an additional 800 million tests, he added.
Biden announced in December that the federal government would start mailing 500 million at-home Covid test kits for free to any U.S. household that requests one amid a surge in infections driven by the omicron variant. In January, Biden said he would double that order, increasing the total tests purchased by the federal government to 1 billion.
Testing was one of the biggest challenges for the administration at the time, with long lines forming at testing centers and rapid tests selling out quickly among retailers. While Covid cases have dropped significantly since then, administration officials say they are continuing their push to strengthen the country’s testing infrastructure to prepare the U.S. for another wave of infections.
Tom Inglesby, who recently started overseeing the White House’s testing efforts, said Wednesday that the federal government issued a formal request for information from the testing industry, seeking ways to manage market volatility, address supply chain challenges, scale up manufacturing as well as improve on the current technology.
Last year, some manufactures curtailed their testing production when cases dropped and demand went down, which made it difficult for the U.S. to ramp up capacity during the omicron surge.