Millions of Americans ordered free COVID-19 tests from President Biden’s new website this week and the initial kits began to reach households Friday, the White House said.
A glitch affecting apartment dwellers is “very limited” and being resolved, White House officials said.
The U.S. Postal Service is delivering the tests as Americans grapple with limited screening options amid the omicron surge. Each household is entitled to request four tests for free delivery from the website, which went live on Tuesday.
“Demand has been high in the first few days around the country. Households around the country are clearly ordering tests and completing the process quickly,” said White House COVID-19 Coordinator Jeff Zients. “The website is working smoothly. We already have millions of completed orders through the website and those numbers keep increasing each and every day.”
Mr. Zients said the administration is aware of a glitch in which some apartment residents are not able to request tests if someone else in their building requested tests first. He said the problem applies to a small subset of apartment residents.
“Almost every resident in an apartment is able to order a test. U.S. Postal Service has seen a very limited number of cases where addresses that are not registered as multi-unit buildings, within its database, and they are working to fix that issue and are helping people through that process. But I want to emphasize it is a very, very small percentage of people who live in apartment buildings. We will make sure that those people get tests for free.”
He said people who run into trouble can call a hotline to get the issue fixed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the U.S. is averaging about 745,000 cases per day, a 5% decrease from the prior week.
Hospitalizations remain at a record 160,000 while deaths have risen to 1,700 per day, though that’s far below the 3,000-plus pandemic peak in January 2021.
“In some parts of the country, we are seeing the number of daily cases caused by the omicron variant beginning to decline,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said. “But, as we have seen during other phases of the pandemic, the surge in cases started at different times in different regions and [we] may continue to see high case counts in some areas of the country in the days and weeks ahead.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the best-case scenario is that the decline in cases will continue to a baseline level of “adequate control.”
“Namely, it’s not disruptive of what we do,” he said, as scientists view 2022 as a transition year in treating the virus as a manageable disease like influenza.
Dr. Fauci said they also have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.
“And that is we do get down to a level that we would say would be adequate control but we’re faced with another surprise, with a variant that is so different that it eludes the accumulation of immune protection that we’ve gotten from vaccinations and from prior infections,” Dr. Fauci said. “I hope that doesn’t happen. I can’t give you statistics of what the chance [is] that happens, but we have to be prepared for it. So we hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”
Mr. Zients insisted the U.S. will be better prepared to weather whatever happens, citing plentiful vaccines and groundbreaking drugs that are coming online.
“We have that tool kit and we’ll continue to expand that toolkit to make sure that we can deal with any scenario,” he said.
Health, The New York Today