The website for the newly established federal effort to distribute Covid-19 rapid tests by mail across America will launch for requests on January 19, but will be limited to four rapid tests per residential household, according to senior administration officials.
According to senior administration officials on a call with reporters on Friday:
- Americans will be able to request tests at COVIDTests.gov beginning on January 19.
- The initial program will allow four free tests to be requested per residential address "to preserve broad access."
- Tests are expected to ship within 7-12 days of being ordered.
On the process of test procurement, a senior administration official said, "The administration is quickly completing a contracting process for this unprecedented purchase of 500 million at-home rapid tests, with over 420 million tests already under contract. All paths interactive through this program will be rapid at-home tests that have been granted an emergency use authorization by the FDA. Half a billion tests will be available for order on January 19."
The official noted that there are "some tests already in the possession of the US government, in the order of tens of millions."
While the official mentioned the administration will also be launching a free call line for the tests, a launch date wasn't provided.
Pressed by CNN's Kaitlan Collins as to whether the US government had yet secured the initially promised half a billion tests, the official noted that "we're working to finalize the contract on the last 80 million, and this is an unprecedentedly large purchase," adding that "it's been going at a fast speed."
The total cost for the initial 500 million tests, the official said, is around "$4 billion" for purchase and distribution.
"We're confident that with our contracting team, which is very fast, with the (tests) we have on hand and the timeline we're laying out today, that we can ... meet all of our timelines and get these to Americans that want them," the official said.
Later Friday, the Department of Defense announced three major contracts totaling nearly $2 billion for Covid-19 test kits, part of the Biden administration's efforts to make the scarce kits more readily available to the public.
iHealth Labs Inc., based in Sunnyvale, California, was awarded a $1.275 billion contract for Covid-19 rapid antigen tests. Roche Diagnostics Corp., based in Indianapolis, was awarded a contract for $340 million, and Abbott Rapid Dx North America LLC, based in Orlando, Florida, was awarded a contract for $306 million.
The announcement included no information about the number of test kits the contracts will purchase, but the contracts all have an estimated completion date of March 14, 2022.
So far, the limit of four free Covid-19 tests per household is something that is only being implemented for the first 500 million rapid tests Americans can request by mail, another official said on Friday's call. Overall, the Biden administration has pledged to acquire 1 billion rapid tests -- initially 500 million to distribute by mail to Americans for free, with another 500 million announced recently to meet future demand.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misquoted a White House official on how many rapid Covid-19 tests had been obtained by the federal government. It was tens of millions.
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