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How to order free at-home Covid tests: White House website goes live

Some local governments, like Broward County, Florida, launched free rapid test programs of their own before the federal government’s website went live on Tuesday. Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

 The federal government’s website for Americans to order at-home rapid Covid-19 testing kits launched on Tuesday.

The website says “every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests. The tests are completely free. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days.”

“Order your tests now so you have them when you need them,” said the website.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed in her press briefing that the site is currently in its “beta phase” ahead of the official launch Wednesday.

“Today, in alignment with website launch best practices, covidtests.gov is currently in its beta phase, which means that the website is operating at limited capacity ahead of its official launch,” a White House official told NBC News. “This is standard practice to address troubleshooting and ensure as smooth of an official launch tomorrow as possible. We expect the website to officially launch midmorning tomorrow.”

Some users reported running into issues Tuesday afternoon relating to the address verification tool erroneously enforcing the four-per-household cap on apartment buildings and other multi-unit dwellings. A spokesperson for the Postal Service said in a statement that the error was “occurring in a small percentage of orders” and that user needing assistance could file a request at emailus.usps.com/s/the-postal-store-inquiry or contact a help desk at 1-800-ASK-USPS.

In December, the federal government announced it would start mailing at-home Covid test kits for free to any U.S. household that requests one, as the omicron variant of the coronavirus contributes to a spike in new cases. The White House said at the time it was preparing to ship as many as 500 million kits.

Testing remains one of the biggest challenges for the administration, with long lines forming at testing centers and at-home rapid tests selling out quickly, public health officials have said.

Increased demand has wiped out store shelves and forced retailers to limit purchases of at-home tests. Meanwhile, increased demand for PCR testing at pharmacies, medical clinics and hospitals has led to a backlog, sometimes meaning it takes several days to get results.

President Joe Biden and his top health officials last month largely focused on urging people to get vaccinations and boosters, and on wearing a mask indoors while greenlighting holiday gatherings for those fully vaccinated.

The demand for testing has overwhelmed the nation’s capacity in places that are hardest hit, and the administration was widely criticized recently for what appeared to be confusing recommendations for those infected.

In an effort to improve its messaging Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, said this month that she would begin holding regular news briefings with other CDC officials, apart from the weekly White House Covid briefings that typically last for 30 minutes and leave time for only a handful of questions.

By Teaganne Finn | NBC News

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