The White House says Americans have placed 68 million orders for test packages, leaving about 46% of the stock of tests that can still be ordered.
Testing will become more important with Requirements for masks are now being relaxed, say some independent experts. “If infection control remains our priority, testing is central,” said Dr. Liana Wen, a former Baltimore health commissioner and pandemic commentator. “Four tests per family is only enough for one family. There should be enough tests for families to be checked twice a week. “
Inglesby argues that the pieces are falling into place to accommodate it.
Private insurers are now required to cover eight free rapid tests per person per month. Medicare coverage will begin in the spring. The administration also provides free home tests through libraries, clinics and other public places. Capacity has been created for more accurate PCR tests conducted in laboratories. The White House recently asked the industry for ideas on how to support and expand internal testing by the end of this year.
Wen says people still need instructions on when and how often to take tests. “It’s still unclear,” she said.
President Joe Biden’s turn to the test was coerced when the Omicron option came into force just before Christmas. The tests were very difficult and expensive. The White House is sensitive to criticism that the aid may have come too late.
“There is no doubt that some people learned that they were positive by passing one of these tests, and were able to prevent other people from becoming infected,” said Tim Manning, supply coordinator for the COVID-19 Response Team.
Around mid-December, as Omicron’s predictions grew gloomier by the day, White House officials began discussing how to make free tests available to anyone who wanted to. But if the government started conducting market tests, it would only worsen the deficit.
“For us, the most important thing was that everything we did had to be done in a way that didn’t create a retail deficit for the general public,” Manning said.
The White House brought in the Pentagon and parts of the Department of Health and Human Services, which worked to develop vaccines for the Trump administration to distribute vaccines. Logistics experts have traveled the world in search of available tests. The postal service is assigned to accept orders and deliver them.
That part turned out to be good, said Hannah Shank, an expert on government technology projects at the New America think tank. The postal service already had a database of each address in the land and means of delivery.
“At the federal level, the only people who have a database linked to the enforcement mechanism will be post offices,” she said.
Preparations for the project took less than a month, Manning said. “We said it wasn’t online retail,” he said. “It’s an emergency response, so we need to go as fast as possible.”
To make sure that the free survey will not only be experienced in technology, the administration has focused on the share of supplies to low-income people. The White House has worked with service organizations to obtain information.
“We have given priority to processing orders by zip code with the highest social vulnerability in the country,” said Inglesby Testing Advisor.
One of the service groups was the National Association of Public Health Professionals, whose members help people navigate the health care system. CEO Dennis Smith said the group was able to use its website to connect more than 630,000 people with COVIDtests.gov.
Overall, 20% to 25% of the tests went on people in problem areas, officials said.
Now that demand has dropped significantly, it is unclear what will happen to the White House gift program. Allowing repeat orders is one possibility.
Smith says groups like her should get a surplus. “We know where people are,” she said.
Although the program is still in its infancy, analyst Lindsey Dawson of the Kaiser Family Foundation believes her legacy may be to introduce more people to testing. “It can make someone comfortable using tests, thinking about how they can use testing in their lives,” she said.
Savita Sharaf, a pensioner from the suburbs of Maryland outside the capital, said she ordered free tests around mid-January and received them in early February. She tried to keep them, for extra peace of mind. In stores, she could not find tests for less than $ 25.
“I am relieved because I can check myself right away,” Sharaf said. “If we had a high level of vaccination, it would be a little easier to say that we abandoned this program. But I feel we need to watch for the next month or two to see what happens. ”