COVIDtests.gov launched a day early, and has not yet experienced any Obamacare-style technical glitches, but many are finding that the free tests are not available to them.
When the Biden administration announced around Christmas that it would send free at-home COVID tests to anyone who requested them, our response was A) you should have done this a month ago, and B) that website is going to completely melt down on the day they launch it, just like Obama’s HealthCare.gov did, and will remain an enduring laughingstock for the remainder of his presidency.
That free test website was supposed to launch Wednesday. But it “soft-launched” a day early, according to ABC News, who report that “At points Tuesday more than 750,000 people were accessing the website at the same time.” You can access the ordering website at COVIDtests.gov, or directly through the US Postal Service at the (odd) URL Special.Usps.com/testkits. Those two interfaces are different, but still allow the same four free tests per household.
And the reviews so far are quite good! Folks on Twitter who used the system Tuesday have described it as “remarkably easy,” “took *maybe* all of 15 seconds. Job well done by the @WhiteHouse,” and “best government website I have ever used.” That said, all they did was place orders. We’ll hold off on declaring this a success until those tests actually arrive at peoples’ homes in the mail.
it's possible handing this off to the famously competent USPS will cause some problems https://t.co/lzg7z5q49P— Rebecca Fishbein (@bfishbfish) January 18, 2022
And lo and behold, many people are getting denied the free tests. In some cases, apartment buildings seem to operating on a first-come, first-serve basis, so one apartment gets all four tests and the rest of the building gets nothing. The Bay Area News Group points out that “Others have raised concerns that four tests per household may be sufficient for single-family households or people living alone but it does not provide enough coverage for multigenerational households and those in group living situations.”
And as seen below, some homes are classified as business addresses, and as such, their residents cannot order the tests.
I'm hearing some people haven't been able to order their free COVID tests because their homes are considered "business addresses." Well, I used to live at an SRO hotel with several neighbors who were senior, disabled and/or immunocompromised. USPS classified it as a business.— Danielle Parenteau Decker (@daniparenteau) January 18, 2022
Maybe the government solves that, maybe it doesn’t. And again, the tests have to physically show up before this yields any, forgive the phrase, positive results. Per the Bay Area News Group, “tests are expected to be shipped in late January. A statement from the White House last week said the tests will usually ship within seven to 12 days of ordering.”
Waiting for Republicans to declare that offering them free in-home COVID tests is an infringement of their civil rights.— John Pavlovitz (@johnpavlovitz) January 18, 2022
But this represents a remarkable change of course by the Biden White House, and likely a political win. It was December 6 when White House press secretary Jen Psaki sneered sarcastically at a reporter, “Should we just send one to every American?” Two weeks later, sending one to every American was official White House policy.
Provided this system holds up, Biden will crow about how the free test system worked, and even worked a day early. But given what’s happened with Omicron, and especially right around the holidays, we’d say it came a month late.