White House defends testing response amid shortage, saying it quadrupled at-home supply since September

Biden plans to roll out 500 million free tests beginning in January

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The White House is accentuating the positive when it comes to the availability of COVID-19 antigen tests for home use; pointing to how there are more now than there used to be at a time when there is still not nearly enough.

With plans for half a billion tests to be sent out at a yet-to-be-determined date early next year, the Biden administration is pointing to how those looking for tests before seeing loved ones on Christmas Eve at least have a better chance of doing so than they did in the past.

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"When President Biden came into office there were zero at home antigen tests on the market. Today there are eight and we have quadrupled the supply," the White House tweeted Friday morning, including a bar graph showing that there are currently 195 million over-the-counter tests in the market, compared to just 46 million in October.

The current number is still dwarfed by the 500 million additional tests the administration is promising to make available beginning in January. 

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The tweet also ignores how until recently the White House had no plans to provide free tests for individuals. It was just this month when White House press secretary Jen Psaki dismissed the idea of free tests when it was suggested by NPR reporter Mara Liasson.

People stand in the rain as they wait in line for a COVID-19 test in Beverly Hills, California, Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021.

People stand in the rain as they wait in line for a COVID-19 test in Beverly Hills, California, Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

"Should we just send one to every American?" Psaki responded sarcastically. When Liasson said yes, Psaki challenged the idea.

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

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

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

While the administration has since changed their position to agreeing that making free tests available to the public would be a good idea, they have yet to publicly answer the questions of when and how it will happen. It remains unclear how many tests people will be able to request. As of Thursday, the White House had yet to finalize and execute a contract to acquire the tests, and as a result there was no distribution date in place or a hard date for when the website to request the tests would go live.