WASHINGTON – The Biden administration on Wednesday will launch a website where Americans can order up to four free COVID-19 testing kits per person, according to a senior administration official.

The tests, part of the Biden administration’s purchase of 500 million tests last month to help tackle a record surge in infections, will be available at COVIDTest.gov and mailed to homes within 7-12 days through the U.S. Postal Service, according to the official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss details of the announcement.

This week, President Joe Biden declared that the Administration would increase its orders by twofoldTo 1 Billion COVID-19 home tests amid shortages of national testsU.S. Cases are on the rise. The second batch of testing kits will also be distributed for free through the website, officials said. 

The White House is ramping up efforts to make testing more accessible and affordable after facing criticism from both Republicans and Democrats over the lack of inventory of COVID-19 tests as the highly transmissible omicron variant ripped across the country, shuttering schools, overwhelming hospitals and frustrating Americans exhausted by two years of an ongoing pandemic. 

Earlier this month, a group of Biden’s former health advisers released a series of articles calling for the administration to change its approach to combatting COVID-19 and urging Americans to learn to live with the virus after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came under fire for issuing confusing guidance on isolation. 

The administration has so far procured more than 420 million of the first order of tests and are working to finalize contracts for the remaining 80 million, according to an official. 

Officials say that the White House plans to also launch a phone line for those who are unable to order online. It will collaborate with local and national community groups to address the needs of the most vulnerable and hardest hit communities.

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Private health insurances must cover eight home tests per month, in addition to the tests that are free through the site. This coverage will begin Saturday. Americans can either buy tests through their insurance for no cost or send receipts to be reimbursed.

Next week, the president will also announce his plans to free high-quality masks. However details about how these would be distributed remain unclear.

This latest White House initiative comes as COVID-19 hospitalizations are breaking new records. Some hospitals delay elective procedures while other states send National Guard troops to help.

To combat an increase in COVID-19-related cases, the White House has also sent military medical teams to New York and New Jersey. 

Roughly 1 in 5 hospitals reported having “critical staff shortages” in data released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services, a USA TODAY analysis found. One in 4 anticipated critical shortages within the next week.

Source: USAToday.com

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