Nearly half of the 500 million COVID-19 at-home testing kits secured by the government to distribute for free remain unclaimed. When COVIDTests.gov first launched in January, the website received 45 million orders on the first day.
Since then, the number of orders has fallen rapidly, to just 100,000 per day. Overall, Americans have placed 68 million orders for packages containing four testing kits. The testing kits are shipped within 7 to 12 days by the United States Postal Service.
Health officials said they are not concerned about the slow down in orders, especially since private insurers are required to cover the cost of at-home testing kits. In addition, Medicare will begin to cover the costs of testing kits in the spring.
Dr. Tom Inglesby, the testing advisor to the COVID-19 response team, told the Associated Press that having nearly 250 million free kits ready to ship out is a good thing because the demand for the test kits could increase if there is another variant that causes a surge in cases.
“We totally intend to sustain this market,” Inglesby said. “We know the market is volatile and will come up and down with surges in variants.”
The White House has also been working to make some of the testing kits available for free in local communities at places like libraries and health clinics.