Psaki grilled over previous dismissal of sending at-home COVID tests to Americans

Psaki said she shouldn't have dismissed nationwide at-home test distribution

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki suggested Tuesday that she regrets her previous comments dismissing the possibility of providing at-home COVID-19 tests to all Americans.

During a White House press conference, Psaki told journalists that she should have been more thoughtful in her response to suggestions of distributing at-home tests nationwide. The stark change in tone comes as President Biden's administration prepares to provide such a service to Americans across the country.

"There's not a day that goes by that I don't leave this podium and wish I would have said something with greater context or more precision or additional information. That day, there was a lot of good questioning on testing," Psaki said. "And during that briefing I conveyed a lot of information about our expansion of testing about the 50 million tests, about the 20,000 free testing sides. And should I have included that additional context in that answer? Yes."

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Psaki previously scoffed at the notion of mass COVID-19 test-distribution in a dialogue with reporters earlier in the month.

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

"Should we just send one to every American?" Psaki responded sarcastically. When Liasson said that would be a good idea, Psaki pushed back, asking, "Then what happens … if every American has one test? How much does that cost, and then what happens after that?"

President Biden announced a plan to send at-home COVID-19 tests to Americans who want them – an idea previously mocked by press secretary Jen Psaki. 

President Biden announced a plan to send at-home COVID-19 tests to Americans who want them – an idea previously mocked by press secretary Jen Psaki.  (Left: AP Photo/Evan Vucci | Right: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Pushed farther on Tuesday, Psaki said that the stark change in attitude was due to a greater availability of testing resources.

"I think it's important for people at home to understand that this has all been a building process. And that includes the approval of tests. There are now eight available as of November, that's important. Because we needed enough tests to tap into in order to get the supply."

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Psaki hammered on the White House's steps to provide at-home tests nationwide, emphasizing the opening of additional testing sites and an unprecedented bul order of tests for distribution.

"The president's objective here is to build on the steps he has taken over the past couple of months," Psaki explained. "Again, quadrupling testing capacity, making it more available in more communities, opening more testing sites across the country, and really directing our efforts and our resources to the parts of the country where they need it most."

White House press secretary Jen Psaki

White House press secretary Jen Psaki (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Psaki stated that the government would be focusing on areas of the country hardest hit, specifically noting New York City, where breakthrough cases have continued despite exceptionally high vaccination rates.

"One step we're taking is really surging capacity and opening these testing sites in parts of the country where they have been hardest hit. New York City is one of them. And those testing sites will be up and running in New York City by the end of this week," Psaki added.

"And we will continue to surge capacity and open additional testings sites in other parts off the country. And that is something that can happen very rapidly and our team is ready to deploy those resources."

Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.