White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday spent roughly 45 minutes briefing reporters, alongside White House infrastructure adviser Mitch Landrieu.
Psaki told the press corps, reduced in number due to the surging COVID-19 pandemic, that the website to order free COVID-19 tests is in a testing phase and that the White House is talking with wireless carriers and airlines about 5G deployment concerns. Landrieu said that infrastructure projects could start as early as the spring.
Here’s the White House briefing — in brief.
Testing website in beta testing
The government website on which Americans can order rapid COVID-19 tests to be sent to their homes is in the “beta phase” before it launches officially on Wednesday morning, Psaki told reporters.
COVIDTests.gov went live on Tuesday but is in a testing phase, which Psaki said is typical for a large website launch.
“So COVIDtest.gov is in the beta phase right now, which is a standard part of the process typically, as it’s being kind of tested in the early stages of being rolled out,” Psaki said when asked if the website is ready.
Any American can order rapid tests for free through the website, with a limit to four tests per residential address, and they will be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
Psaki warned though that bugs could still occur once the website officially launches.
“Every website launch, in our view, comes with risk — we can guarantee there won’t be a bug or two — but the best tech teams across the administration and the Postal Service are working hard to make this a success,” she said.
Infrastructure projects to start in spring 2022
Landrieu, whom President Biden appointed to oversee implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure law, said that shovels could hit the ground on projects in a few months.
“My expectation is there’s some projects that you’ll see people turning dirt on in definitely the spring or the fall, which ones they are, I can’t actually point to you right now. But there’s no reason that shouldn’t happen, especially if some of the projects have been in the line for some period of time,” he told reporters.
He said he couldn’t give an exact date on when projects will start, adding that it’s up to governors to decide where money is going to go. He also warned people shouldn’t expect to see results quickly.
“It takes a long time to build a bridge. You know, you don’t build a bridge in a day,” he said.
Landrieu said he has personally spoken to 40 governors, including many from Republican states, and they are all appreciative and welcoming of the infrastructure funding.
“A very wise person said you know: ‘even if they voted no, they want the dough.’ And that’s absolutely true, especially on infrastructure,” he said.
White House engaged on 5G deployment talks
Psaki said the White House is “actively engaged” with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), wireless carriers, airlines and aviation equipment manufacturers to avoid disruptions from 5G wireless service deployment.
The new 5G wireless service is set to deploy on Wednesday but airlines and cargo carriers are warning it could ground flights and urging officials to prevent 5G from being implemented within 2 miles of affected airports until the FAA figures out a way for affected airplanes to fly safely.
Psaki said conversations are ongoing but she didn’t have an update on them as of the briefing time.
“We have the safest airspace in the world. We’re committed to reaching a solution around 5G deployment that maintains the highest level of safety while … minimizing disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations, and our economic recovery. We certainly understand what’s at stake for both industries,” she said, referring to the airline industry and wireless industry.
“We believe that with continued cooperation, we can chart a path forward. But certainly minimizing flight disruptions, ensuring safety and travel is a top priority,” she added.
Airlines warned on Monday the risk is a “catastrophic disruption” to passenger flights and the global supply chain.
“I think what we’re trying to do now is come to a solution to avoid exactly that and it is true that if there are hundreds or thousands of flights that are grounded, that means not just disruptions to passenger travel, that also means cargo operations, that means that goods aren’t moving around as quickly and effectively as they need to,” Psaki said.