Free Tests for All or Failure?
New White House program aims to distribute 1 billion rapid antigen tests.
By Kiera O’Hara-Heinz
Just three weeks ago, at the start of Jan Term, all students were required to provide proof of a negative coronavirus test result. Long wait times for PCR tests with rapid antigen tests in high demand and low supply made attaining a test a challenge. A new government program aims to solve this problem by flooding the country with accessible rapid tests.
Covidtests.gov is part of the White House's plan to distribute 1 billion rapid tests. The website opened on January 19th and has since been very popular. According to analytics.usa.gov covidtests.gov has been the most popular government website in the last seven days with 68,458,022 visits.
The White House website says that this program is part of the Biden Administrations’ efforts to increase equitable access to free COVID-19 testing for all Americans. The program will provide access to free tests for all households, with the initial program allowing four free tests to be requested per residential address. The tests will take seven to twelve days to ship.
Though extremely popular, this new program is not without controversy. The major controversy of the program is that it does not meet the needs of those facing the most barriers to testing. The website covidtests.gov has a limited number of language options available, largely excluding non-English speaking populations.
Each household will also only be able to order four tests, no matter how many people may live in that household. Multi-family households are already at a higher risk for coronavirus. Ordering tests is also reliant on a residential address, excluding unhoused people from the program. Non-white and unhoused Americans are two groups that COVID has hit the hardest.
Glitches and technical difficulties also led to challenges in accessing free tests. According to PBS, some dorms, condos, and apartments have had difficulties ordering tests with the website telling them that someone had already ordered tests for their residence. The United States Postal Service spokesperson David Partenheimer says that people who experience this issue should contact the help desk at 1-800-ASK-USPS.
Saint Mary’s students can order their free tests using their residential address or SMC PMB.
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Ryan Ford '23,