White House changes tune on free at-home tests, but they'll be too late for Christmas

The Biden administration will send free rapid tests to Americans, but not until 2022

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The Biden administration has signaled a shift to a more aggressive approach to in-home testing for COVID-19, but according to their new plans, it will not be in time to help most Americans before Christmas or even New Year's Eve.

President Biden will announce Tuesday a number of new initiatives that include increased testing, both at designated sites and for private, in-home use, senior administration officials said.

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The latter is a reversal from the attitude presented by White House press secretary Jen Psaki earlier this month, when the idea of sending tests to Americans was raised during a press briefing.

City residents wait in a line extending around the block to receive free at-home rapid COVID-19 test kits in Philadelphia, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021.

City residents wait in a line extending around the block to receive free at-home rapid COVID-19 test kits in Philadelphia, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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

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

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

President Biden salutes as he steps off Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021.

President Biden salutes as he steps off Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

While the answers to those questions remain unknown, the president will announce Tuesday that the administration will be buying at least 500 million at-home rapid tests to send to Americans for free.

Unfortunately, those tests will not be available for Americans to use before the winter holidays to help them decide whether to gather with family or friends. The tests are first scheduled to be sent out to American homes in January.

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New York City residents, however, may be in luck. Biden will also be announcing the establishment of a number of new federal testing sites throughout the U.S. New York City will have the first one, set to open this week.

Press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House on Monday, Dec. 20, 2021. 

Press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House on Monday, Dec. 20, 2021.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Officials said testing in the United States is "a lot better than it was," but admitted that "there’s more to do."

Fox News' Brooke Singman contributed to this report.