Starting next week, Americans can begin ordering free rapid COVID-19 tests through a new government-sponsored website, though with a limit of four tests per residential address, the Biden administration announced on Friday.
“To help ensure Americans have tests on hand if a need arises, the Biden Administration is purchasing 1 billion at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests to give to Americans for free,” the White House said in a statement.
“A half-billion tests will be available for order on Jan. 19 and will be mailed directly to American households,” it added.
The Biden administration also announced that in order to “ensure equity and access for all Americans,” there will be a call line available for those who are unable to access the website to place their order.
The batch of free tests is aimed at easing a shortage of COVID-19 tests across the country amid increased demand during the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein said the union had agreed to allow the USPS to use up to 7,000 temporary workers to label and package the test kits at 43 existing facilities. Many of those are holiday workers being held over for the project.
The kits could be mailed to as many as 160 million U.S. addresses, Dimondstein said. The USPS has already brought in some labeling machines. “We’re off and running,” Dimondstein said.
The government expects to pay some $4 billion to cover the first 500 million tests promised by President Joe Biden, a White House official said.
In addition, the Biden administration said this week it will up the number of COVID-19 tests it provides to schools to 5 million rapid tests and 5 million lab-based PCR tests each month.
The increase in testing comes after the administration has already spent $130 billion from the American Rescue Plan meant to keep schools open, plus an additional $10 billion for testing at schools.
Biden has been criticized that his administration has mainly focused on getting people vaccinated, but hasn’t done enough to encourage mask-wearing and spur testing.
The number of CCP virus cases nationwide has risen substantially over the past few weeks.
This week’s data counts a 47 percent increase in cases, with an average of 751,000 per day. Hospitalizations are up 33 percent to 19,800 each day, and there are also 40 percent more COVID-related deaths at 1,600 each day.
Reuters contributed to this report.