Healthcare

Nearly half of Biden’s free COVID-19 tests remain unclaimed

COVID-19 testing
Associated Press/Jae C. Hong

Nearly half of the 500 million stockpiled COVID-19 tests the federal government rushed to send out in early January haven’t been claimed yet, according to a report by The Associated Press.

The White House has taken orders for 68 million packages, which all contain four tests. 

That means about 46 percent of the tests have yet to be snapped up as case numbers decline across the country. 

The White House received a rush of orders for the free tests earlier this year as the highly contagious omicron variant rushed through the country. 

On the first day that the White House opened its online portal to order free COVID-19 tests, it received more than 45 million orders, according to The Associated Press

The free tests were announced in January, just as the omicron variant began surging across the country, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting 798,000 new COVID-19 cases on Jan. 15. 

Fast forward to Feb. 26, and data from John Hopkins University found new cases of coronavirus slightly topped 100,000, signaling a major downward trajectory of the pandemic. 

Back in January, Americans were scrambling to get COVID-19 rapid tests, with a surge in supply causing prices to rise from $17 all the way up to $50, according to Kaiser Family Foundation. That prompted the White House to quickly secure millions of free COVID-19 tests for Americans. 

Now, officials said they are getting fewer than 100,000 orders a day. 

The Biden administration also moved to have COVID-19 at-home tests covered by Americans’ insurance plans, with private insurers required to cover eight free rapid tests per person, per month. Medicare coverage will also begin in the spring this year.  

Alongside sending out free at-home rapid tests, the Biden administration also set up 20,000 free COVID-19 testing sites across the country in an effort to make testing more accessible to all Americans. 

Testing is still critical to containing the coronavirus pandemic, as the CDC released updated guidance on when Americans should wear masks. The agency created a tiered COVID-19 risk assessment chart, recommending those in areas with low community spread don’t need a mask.

The National Institutes of Health also emphasized the importance of continued COVID-19 testing, warning that taking COVID-19 at-home tests doesn’t always rule out a positive infection. 

Michelle Barron, senior medical director of infection prevention and control for UC Health in Colorado, has also warned that despite at-home rapid tests being convenient, they are only accurate about 80 percent of the time.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19

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