The federal government will allow Americans to order up to four free rapid Covid-19 tests per household starting Wednesday, part of the Biden Administration’s push to resolve a severe testing shortage as coronavirus cases surge — but shipping could take upwards of a week.

Key Facts

Some 500 million at-home coronavirus tests will be sent out to Americans who enter their names and mailing addresses into a new federal website that launches Wednesday, the White House announced Friday.

The tests will ship via the U.S. Postal Service seven to 12 days after their order date, the White House said.


Starting Saturday, private insurance companies will also need to cover up to eight free Covid-19 tests per customer per month, part of a new federal policy. Insurers can either pay for these tests upfront at a pharmacy or reimburse customers who pay out-of-pocket.

Key Background

President Joe Biden directed the federal government to purchase a half-billion Covid-19 rapid tests and distribute them free-of-charge last month, following intense criticism over testing shortfalls. Demand for tests — including both lab-analyzed PCR tests and less sensitive “rapid” antigen tests often administered at home — shot up last month, after the coronavirus’ omicron variant caused infection rates to resurge nationwide. Hours-long lines snaked around testing sites in some cities, retailers like Amazon and Walmart capped the number of tests each customer can purchase, and some sellers hiked their prices. Biden has defended his handling of this shortage, but he acknowledged last month he wishes he’d thought to order 500 million free tests earlier.

What To Watch For

On Thursday, Biden directed the government to purchase an additional 500 million Covid-19 tests, doubling the federal government’s total orders.

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