Americans will have to wait weeks or longer for COVID-19 tests promised by White House

The White House does not know for sure when most of their free rapid tests will be sent to Americans

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The White House announced this week that they will be providing COVID-19 testing to Americans, but so far there is no indication as to when they will be available.

The administration said Tuesday that they would be purchasing half a billion at-home rapid tests for Americans, and that people would be able to go to a website to sign up for free delivery. There is currently no website for signing up, and as of Wednesday the Biden administration had not finalized a contract for acquiring the tests. 

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"Right now, the Department of Defense and HHS are executing on what's called an accelerated emergency contract. This means the first delivery from manufacturers will arrive in January," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday. "And we anticipate having the full time line of delivery of all five hundred million in the weeks following."

Employees of Nomi Health check in a long line of people for COVID-19 tests, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, in North Miami, Fla.

Employees of Nomi Health check in a long line of people for COVID-19 tests, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, in North Miami, Fla. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

Psaki also said that the website will be available for use in January when the administration is ready to distribute the first tests.

At best, the White House's timeline for providing tests would still be after the holiday season, when Americans are hoping to safely gather with friends and family. Still it is a change of attitude after Psaki appeared to scoff at the idea of sending tests out to individuals.

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"Why not just make them free … and have them available everywhere?" asked NPR reporter Mara Liasson. 

Sharil Jones, Executive Director of the Dewitt Reformed Church Head Start, picks up a test kit that detects COVID-19 as they are distributed in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan in New York Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021.

Sharil Jones, Executive Director of the Dewitt Reformed Church Head Start, picks up a test kit that detects COVID-19 as they are distributed in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan in New York Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

"Should we just send one to every American?" Psaki responded sarcastically. When Liasson said that would be a good idea, Psaki pushed back.

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"Then what happens … if every American has one test? How much does that cost, and then what happens after that?" she asked.

The answers to those questions remain unknown, as the White House has not made clear how many tests people will be able to order at one time or if there will be a limit to how many people can get.